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By Noel Murray And Scott Tobias September 7, 2012

Far Out Isn’t Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story
Director/Country/Time: Brad Bernstein, USA, 98 min.
Documentary
Program: TIFF Docs
Headline: Artist faces fascism, at home and abroad
Noel’s Take: Outside of its animated interludes, Brad Bernstein’s documentary Far Out Isn’t Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story doesn’t deviate much from the talking-heads-and-archival-clips norm. But Bernstein relies mainly on one head: Ungerer himself, an artist who survived the Nazi occupation of Alsace in the ‘30s, the came to America, where he helped lead a revolution in commercial illustration and children’s books, away from rosy, Rockwellian realism and toward colorful, playful abstraction. And Ungerer has an fascinating and thought-provoking story to tell, too—not just about jackbooted stormtroopers, and New York during the creative flourish of the ‘60s, but about what happened when he started doing political and erotic drawings as well as work for the kiddies. Ungerer had always had a reputation for being an oddball, given that he had made children’s book heroes out of snakes and ogres. But his shockingly crude anti-Vietnam War posters, coupled with his flair for the pornographic, raised eyebrows among the parents and publishers who used to love him, effectively derailing his career. Well, one pathway of his career, anyway. As Ungerer himself says, every time a person makes a mark on a page, “You start a new life.” And as someone who had several lives, and stared down real fascists, the displeasure of prudes was hardly going to slow him down. Though ordinary in its stylistic approach, Far Out Isn’t Far Enough is full of Ungerer drawings that are far from ordinary, and as such the movie works as an exhibition—in every sense of the word.
Grade: B

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