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Monday, July 11, 2005

DVD Review: In the Realms of the Unreal
by Matt Hinrichs
Among the ranks of eccentric outsider artists, few can top the strange case of Henry Darger (1892-1972).

I was first exposed to Darger back in the early '90s, when a small sampling of his work was published in Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly's comics anthology, RAW. What I saw were drawings both wonderful and insanely creepy: angelic little girls in pinafores brandishing guns, strange flying creatures, mangled and tortured bodies, hermaphrodite children, colorful widescreen cloudscapes, incomprehensible text passages. The artwork seemed almost too personal and idiosyncratic; viewing them was like being let in on a stranger's innermost psyche. Darger's work has been seen by thousands, perhaps millions -- every one privy to an intensely personal relationship, a secret not to be shared.

Director Jessica Yu brings this same sense of wonder, awe and possessiveness to her terrific documentary on Darger, In the Realms of the Unreal. Yu's main purpose for the film lies in delineating between Darger's two lives: his prosaic real-life existence as a Chicago janitor and intensely private old man with few acquaintances, and his fantasy world, an outlet for his many obsessions (Catholicism, children, the weather). The narrative is pieced together from Darger's own autobiographical writings and reminiscences from the few people who knew him. For such an enigmatic subject, it's a remarkably thorough portrait.

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:: posted by Donald Melanson, 7/11/2005 Comments (0)
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Archives prior to April, 2005 are from Donald Melanson's personal film blog.

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