Director: Brad Bernstein
Cast: Tomi Ungerer
Running Time: 98 minutes
Release Date: December 13th
“I have the full respect of a sheet of white paper, which I then will rape…with my drawings or my writing.”
The portrait of ageing children’s literature giant Tomi Ungerer in Far Out Isn’t Far Enough is that of a beautiful, wise, humble, insane, depraved mastermind of creative works. The documentary film travels through Ungerer’s tumultuous century, chronicling his adventures in Nazi occupied Strasbourg—where he was considered neither French nor German and was forbidden from speaking the former language—through his experiences in the USA—still the land of opportunity where one could stroll into the offices of big executives and request an appointment—where he cemented his legacy as an award-winning author and illustrator of wonderfully weird children’s books and created an underground alter-ego as the artist of anti-Vietnam war posters and hardcore erotica, finally culminating in his retreat to West Cork where his career is enjoying a renaissance period.
Perhaps the heart of the film lies in Ungerer’s descriptions of the many hardships he faced not only as a child during and after the Nazi regime—at one point a dirty Frenchman, then a disgusting German—but also in America after it became clear that he was an author of erotica as well as innocent children’s literature, a fact which resulted in his being blacklisted for many years. Ungerer’s sexuality is proudly showcased both by him and by the film; he is unapologetic in his desires and claims that if everyone was as open and forthright as he in their quests for carnal pleasure, that we would have no need for pornography.
The film is enhanced not only by Ungerer’s infectious wit and wisdom, but also by beautifully animated versions of his soulful drawings—almost every scene is electrified by such effects, some are childlike and innocent, and some are rabidly sexual. Similarly, all the locations Ungerer has called “home” are vividly recreated in the film through the use of home videos, photographs and mementos. (Ungerer’s collection of mutilated Barbie dolls is given an alarming amount of attention.) For Irish viewers, West Cork has never looked so beautiful, with a delightful collection of locals greeting Tomi as he visits town in one scene. His love for the land is clear—with some difficulty, Ungerer describes the way that Irish people can still be so welcoming and pleasant despite their centuries of hardship under British rule to be “very moving.”
What could easily have been a glorified DVD-extra ends up a magical jaunt through the 20th century as a spectacularly eccentric madman searches for the identity he deserves. The film is at times humourous, horrifying and even heartfelt. No emotion or thought-process presented in the film seems anything less than genuine and Ungerer’s wild sensibilities will ensure a total lack of boredom from beginning to end.