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    “The Devil and Daniel Johnston” – Opens April 7 at the Ken

    The word “madness” often finds its way into biographies of artists. Examples abound in the collective memory — see the silly rhyme: “Kurt Cobain went insane, shot himself in the brain.” Daniel Johnston — singer, songwriter, artist and manic-depressive — is one of these creative people with difficulties relating to the real world. Anyone remember Cobain’s gray T-shirt, with a weird frog-like, bug-eyed creature and the message, “Hi. How Are You”? Interesting fact: Johnston created that image for his self-produced 1983 cassette.

    The documentary “The Devil and Daniel Johnston” thrives on such fascinating details about Johnston’s life, obscure talent and mental breakdown. Jeff Feuerzeig, who won Best Director at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, cleverly blends current footage of Johnston and his supportive family and friends with Johnston’s old performances and the vintage home movies.

    Feuerzeig portrays Johnston as an indie icon, lauded by the likes of Sonic Youth, the Flaming Lips and Cobain but unknown to the mainstream. Whether Johnston’s talent is comparable to that of the Beatles is questionable, but Johnston’s fans sure think so. Even if you’ve never heard of him or are not completely overwhelmed by his talent, you can’t help feeling like a fan. (AD)

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