the release of his Pulitzer Prize winning Maus,
Art Spiegelman was dead set against becoming the self-appointed Stephen
Spielberg of the graphic novel world. Such
a problem would be unimaginable for a comic artist when Spiegelman began his
career. Clara Kuperberg & Joëlle
Oosterlinck profile the graphic novelist in the European television
documentary, Art of Spiegelman (clip here), which screens
during the 2013 New York Jewish Film Festival, co-presented by the Jewish
Museum and the Film Society of Lincoln Center.
tragic family history has been his greatest source of inspiration and
depression. The son of Holocaust
survivors, Maus is almost entirely
based on a series of interviews he conducted with his father. It just happens to feature mice and cats, much
like An American Tale (Spielberg
rears his head again), which is why Spiegelman rushed out the first six chapters,
lest he be accused of copying his suspected copycat. Whether the director of E.T. was really looking to magpie the work of the co-editor of RAW seems rather debatable, but it is
clearly a subject to avoid Spiegelman.
before Maus, Spiegelman produced the
intensely personal Breakdowns, which
directly addresses his mother’s suicide. Casual comic readers may also be
surprised when they recognize some of Spiegelman’s work-for-hire projects,
including the original Topps Garbage Pail Kids trading cards and some of the
more controversial New Yorker covers
(including the hot button Hasidic Jew and West Indian couple kissing),
commissioned by his wife Françoise Mouly, the magazine’s art editor.
Aside from a lame throwaway joke aimed at
President George W. Bush (that now sounds painfully dated), Kuperberg & Oosterlinck
largely steer clear of Spiegelman’s politics.
This is a wise strategy that serves the interests of their subject. As a result, Art of is a reasonably pleasant portrait/survey of the artist and
his work. However, real
indie/underground comix fans will be disappointed it leaves out all the early
naughty bits. Mainly of interest to
Spiegelman fans and those looking for further context on the Maus books, The Art of Spiegelman screens with Castaways this Monday (1/21) and Tuesday (1/22) at the Walter Reade
Theater, as part of this year’s 2013 NYJFF.
Labels: Art Spiegelman, Documentary, NYJFF'13