The life and work of Seattle-based animator Bruce Bickford is canvassed in "Monster Road," the winner of Slamdance's docu jury prize. Akin to "Crumb" in its exploration of a genius creative type who's also an eccentric, pic offers a portrait of Bickford, whose cult success in the 1970s has been followed by decades of a reclusive existence caring for his Alzheimer's-stricken father.

The life and, to a lesser extent, work of Seattle-based animator Bruce Bickford is canvassed in “Monster Road,” the winner of Slamdance’s documentary jury prize. Akin to “Crumb” in its exploration of a potentially genius creative type who’s also a raging eccentric, pic offers an ostensibly warts-and-all portrait of Bickford, whose cult success in the 1970s (as Frank Zappa’s inhouse animator) has been followed by decades of a reclusive existence caring for his Alzheimer’s-stricken father. Pic is a natural for docu festivals and tube distribution.

With his lust for action movies and belief that the world’s problems can be solved through filmmaking, Bickford makes for a naturally compelling subject. Yet, while pic is at times fascinating, director Brett Ingram just as often seems overly infatuated with his subject, to the point where he becomes unwilling to fully investigate the darker chapters of Bickford’s life. Given particularly short shrift is the animator’s apparent inability to complete a new project, despite many hours of material. One also craves more exposure to Bickford’s work itself — seen here in fleeting glimpses — with its enchanted forests of elves and giants and phallic food mixers.

Monster Road

Production

A Bright Eye Pictures presentation. Produced by Jim Haverkamp, Brett Ingram. Directed by Brett Ingram.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Ingram; editors, Jim Haverkamp, Ingram; music, Shark Quest. Reviewed at Slamdance Film Festival (Documentary Competition), Jan. 22, 2004. Running time: 79 MIN.

With

Bruce Bickford, George Bickford.
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