The Devil and Daniel Johnston Summary
Portrait of a manic-depressive genius singer, songwriter and artist, Daniel Johnston. As a reclusive teenager, Johnston began showing signs of unusual artistic ability. He religiously recorded his thoughts and stories onto cassette tapes, directed intuitive Super-8 films starring his siblings, and created expressive comic book-style drawings in the basement of his family's home. In the eyes of his fundamentalist Christian family, however, he simply wasn't contributing to society in a useful or productive way. After running off and joining a carnival, Johnston landed in Austin, Texas, broke and alone. It was there he began to hone his musical career, recording folk songs on a series of homemade, lo-fi cassettes, which Daniel handed out free to fans, friends and journalists in the early '80s. Ultimately, he managed to secure a brief spotlight on MTV with the help of a timely break. Just as he was beginning to make a local name for himself, however, Johnston's inner demons began to surface. His portrait serves as clear depiction of one artist's balancing act between brilliance and madness--a life marked by wild fluctuations, numerous downward spirals, and periodic respites.