Screened as part of NZIFF 2003

American Splendor 2003

Directed by Shari Springer, Robert Pulcini

USA In English
100 minutes 35mm


Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini. Based on the American Splendor comics by Harvey Pekar and Our Cancer Years by Pekar and Joyce Brabner


Terry Stacey


Robert Pulcini


Mark Suozzo


Paul Giamatti
Hope Davis
James Urbaniak
Judah Friedlander
Harvey Pekar


Sundance, Cannes (Un Certain Regard) 2003


Grand Jury Prize, Sundance 2003; Critics' Prize, Un Certain Regard, Cannes 2003


We close the Festival with an astoundingly original celebration of counter-cultural creativity. American Splendor came from left field to steal this year’s Sundance Film Festival and was a hit again at Cannes this May.

“What a sad, tender, wise and beautiful film co-director/co-screenwriters Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini have made from Harvey Pekar’s life and his American Splendor comics. Like Terry Zwigoff’s equally superb Ghost World, this is a film about the kind of people most movies never bother about… It’s a profound tribute to lives lived on the fringes of society – to the introspective loners who are the most observant chroniclers of our times. American Splendor represents a bold deconstruction of the fatigued biopic form. Not content to present the Cleveland-based Pekar’s life as anything resembling a straightforward narrative, Berman and Pulcini – who have previously made only documentaries – wildly jiggle around the raw materials of their film until they’re left with a freewheeling phantasmagoria of dramatic scenes, documentary interviews (with the real Pekar) and crazily inspired animated bits drawn by the likes of R. Crumb and Joe Zabel. The result is a vibrant, untamed film that stubbornly refuses to fit into any prefigured category… It’s a fundamentally surrealist piece, one that eschews objectifying Pekar’s life in favor of a full immersion into his slightly exaggerated worldview, so that we may better understand how Pekar was able to take life’s lemons and transform them into lemon-art. Thus freed, American Splendor becomes a celebration – an advocacy, even – of finding the ‘art’ in one’s own life.” — Scott Foundas, Variety