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Florida Film Fest review: FAR OUT ISN’T FAR ENOUGH: THE TOMI UNGERER STORY

April 6, 2013
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FAR OUT ISN’T FAR ENOUGH: THE TOMI UNGERER STORY 

★★★★

It’s tough to beat a documentary that takes an already intriguing subject and makes it even more fascinating. Far Out Isn’t Far Enough takes famed illustrator, author and satirist Tomi Ungerer and does just that.

Ungerer grew up in Alsace, a region historically divided between France and Germany, and saw firsthand the horrors of both the Nazis and the repressive French post-war government. Those horrors, plus the death of his father, scarred Ungerer but also allowed him to later hone his history into his own brand of dark genius. It’s not surprising, therefore, that Ungerer was able to publish his first children’s book just one year after arriving in the United States in 1956, and then later branch out into political and even graphically sexual subjects.

His macabre imagery and themes were “disarming and funny, and not respectful at all,” according to Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are, which Ungerer heavily influenced. But what else would you expect from an artist whose main inspiration was Matthias Grünewald’s “The Temptation of St. Anthony,” a nightmarish depiction of supernatural horrors on par with the works of Hieronymus Bosch and Salvador Dali?

So if Ungerer was such a genius, why did he disappear in the early 1970s, at the height of his fame? Was he simply “crushed by his ideas,” as Ungerer describes it, or was there something more sinister afoot? That’s the question writer-director Brad Bernstein answers, and he does so with intelligence, style, a great interview with Ungerer himself, and some superb animation that gives renewed life and meaning to the artist’s drawings. – CM

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