Critics' Pick

Far Out Isn't Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story (NR)

Animation 98 June 21, 2013
By Michelle Orange
In his children's books, Tomi Ungerer practiced his belief that books "should give children a taste for life, even if it tastes bad." Bad taste is relative, as Ungerer discovered when sidelines in erotica and political commentary clashed with his reputation as a beloved children's illustrator. Watching Far Out Isn't Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story, it's clear that no one ever told Ungerer’s story bigger, longer, and with better sound bites than Ungerer himself. Ungerer is shown in storytelling mode-- often with a glass of wine in hand or standing close by--across a series of interviews Bernstein combines with the testimonials of Ungerer's contemporaries in the art and publishing worlds and a dazzling animated survey of his striking, often darkly satirical illustrations. That the film's title is drawn from the stream of epigrams Maurice Sendak called "Tomi-isms" needn't suggest that director Brad Bernstein succumbed entirely to the Strasbourg native's spell. Nor would it be a disaster for the project if he had. But the film's delighted affinity with Ungerer's well-turned perspective does lend a somewhat advertorial slickness to what might have been a more challenging study of a fascinating and famously elusive subject. Ungerer's remarkable protest images-- many dealing with the civil rights movement and the Vietnam war; he designed the Dr. Strangelove poster-- caused him less trouble than a book like Fornicon, a collection of pornographic drawings that depict women having rather creative sex with machine-like contraptions. Ungerer claims the project responded to the feminist proposal that machines replace men as sex partners, one of several moments when, to put it mildly, I would have liked to hear a little more.
Brad Bernstein Tomi Ungerer, Maurice Sendak, Jules Feiffer, Michael Patrick Hearn, Aria Ungerer, Patrick Skene Catling, Steven Heller, Burton Pike, Patrick Joseph Sheehan, Caroline Ward Brad Bernstein Brad Bernstein First Run Features


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