The film touches on Coleman’s influences, from Tod Browning’s film “Freaks,” to sideshow deformity displays, to Harry Houdini’s escape acts and the dark morality of film noirs such as “Gun Crazy” and “Nightmare Alley.” His paintings depicting death, pain and carnage in meticulous, quasi-religious detail are like ghoulish contemporary revisitations of the style of Bosch or Bruegel.
Interviews with Coleman, his brother and his former wife and girlfriend, among others, shed some light on the psyche behind the macabre creations by way of his experience with heroin or his childhood growing up opposite a cemetery with a drunken, war-mongering father. But the acquaintance remains a fragmentary one; Pejo never pulls back to reveal a more complete psychological picture of his subject. Nor does he link Coleman in any way to his immediate environment, despite a series of highly composed views of New York locations.
The film’s most grating element is the use of jokey conversations between Coleman and indie filmmaker Jim Jarmusch in a church, which serve no purpose other than one of gratuitously increasing the cool factor.