American Splendor (2003)
d. Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini
On our inaugural episode of Total Movie Recall, Steve shares with us the formative experience of 2003’s “American Splendor.” We take a look at ‘Cleveland’s Mark Twain,’ Harvey Pekar, try to figure out why misery makes great art, and Ryan has a bit of an identity crisis trying to figure out where he fits in in a world of hipsters, scenesters, loft-dwellers and and everybody cooler than him.
Harvey Pekar is file clerk at the local VA hospital. His interactions with his co-workers offer some relief from the monotony, and their discussions encompass everything from music to the decline of American culture to new flavors of jellybeans and life itself. At home, Harvey fills his days with reading, writing and listening to jazz. His apartment is filled with thousands of books and LPs, and he regularly scours Cleveland’s thrift stores and garage sales for more, savoring the rare joy of a 25-cent find. It is at one of these junk sales that Harvey meets Robert Crumb, a greeting card artist and music enthusiast. When, years later, Crumb finds international success for his underground comics, the idea that comic books can be a valid art form for adults inspires Harvey to write his own brand of comic book. An admirer of naturalist writers like Theodore Dreiser, Harvey makes his American Splendor a truthful, unsentimental record of his working-class life, a warts-and-all self portrait. First published in 1976, the comic earns Harvey cult fame throughout the 1980s and eventually leads him to the sardonic Joyce Barber, a partner in a Delaware comic book store who end ups being Harvey’s true soul mate as they experience the bizarre byproducts of Harvey’s cult celebrity stature. – synopsis written by Sujit R. Varma via IMDB
Things we talked about in the show:
“The theme of ‘American Splendor’ is about staying alive. Getting a job, finding a mate, having a place to live, finding a creative outlet. Life is a war of attrition. You have to stay active on all fronts. It’s one thing after another. I’ve tried to control a chaotic universe. And it’s a losing battle. But I can’t let go. I’ve tried, but I can’t.” -Harvey Pekar
Next week: Predator