Alan Zweig has a gloriously agonized time talking to people ranging from pundit Fran Lebowitz to comic-book maven Harvey Pekar and alt-rocker Mark Eitzel about their bad attitudes. What starts as a cautionary screed against letting bitterness rule your life turns out to be something of a celebration of the power, and powerlessness, of naked-emperor-criers in general.

Alan Zweig has a gloriously agonized time talking to people ranging from pundit Fran Lebowitz to comic-book maven Harvey Pekar and alt-rocker Mark Eitzel about their bad attitudes. What starts as a cautionary screed against letting bitterness rule your life turns out to be something of a celebration of the power, and powerlessness, of naked-emperor-criers in general.

Lack of titles to identify cranksters in question is a marketing minus, but is easily remedied. Intrusive soft-rock score would have to wiped, too, for this to fly with hipper auds. Zweig, known if not loved from his cranky-collectors’ movie, “Vinyl,” repeats the earlier doc’s device of appearing on camera through variously placed mirrors, which put his mug up against carefully chosen books, records, etc. His ruminations on self-discovery are effectively woven into apt talking-head commentary from his guests, who create an amusing, although not very optimistic, view of contemporary life. Overall conclusion is that kids who tell emperors to get dressed fare less well than those who cry wolf or keep mum. Helmer’s own denouement is a little more hopeful, with just a hint of spiritual uplift.

I, Curmudgeon

Canada

Production

A Primitive Entertainment production, in association with TVOntario, IFC, Canada Council for the Arts. (International sales: Primitive Entertainment, Toronto). Produced by Kristina McLaughlin, Michael McMahon. Directed, written, edited by Alan Zweig.

Crew

Camera, (color, DigiBeta), Zweig; music, Drysdale. Reviewed at Vancouver Film Festival (Canadian Images), Oct. 1, 2004. Running time: 94 MIN.

With

Harvey Pekar, Scott Thompson, Fran Lebowitz, Andy Rooney, Mark Eitzel, Cintra Wilson, Joe Quennan, Andy Kindler, Bruce La Bruce, Melanda Guenther, Citizen Kafka.
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