American Splendor

Seen at the Melbourne International Film Festival, 24th July 2003


Harvey Pekar is the sort of bloke who looks annoyed all the time and is famous in the US for his "American Splendor" series of comic books about his struggles in daily life. You would think that this would make the film depressing, but that is not the case.

I hadn't heard of him before, but the description in the festival program seemed interesting and I like to see films from areas I don't know much about during the festival.

What I liked about this film was the combination of documentary and dramatic recreations of events that tends to blur the lines between genres. My favourite part was when Harvey and Toby (the celebrated nerd) are having a conversation about jellybeans on the set and the actors are sitting behind them. The actor who plays Harvey looks like is barely able to control his laughter at this point.

If you are into classic comic books you will also appreciate the way the comic art is used throughout the film. The main focus here however is on the characters and it is interesting to see Robert Crumb portrayed as the straight man. Joyce and Toby are two other characters that stand out the most in the rest of the film.

Most people probably wouldn't have noticed the soundtrack, but it suits the film really well. It is composed of the classic Jazz records that Harvey collects and follows the action perfectly.

This film was originally made for a cable TV network in the US so it should be shown on TV in Australia in the next year or so. Even though the focus of the film was about the comic book series, I am not really that interested in the series. Maybe some other time I will have a look at them.