Credited in the production notes as an “emerging super producer-director,” Johnny Boston has unfortunately emerged with this overlong, six-year doc chronicle of outsider artist Alan Streets. Tastelessly hyper-stylized, the film tries to reflect the disease that ails its acrylic-smearing subject— schizophrenia—but only ends up exploiting his mental illness with cheesy animation and noisy, erratic segues. A sweet, humble, and extremely paranoid bloke from London’s suburbs, New York– based Streets (né Alan Russell Cowan) is the walking embodiment of art therapy. To keep his demons at bay, he wakes each day to pathologically paint the Big Apple’s cityscapes—lurid, wiggly, beautiful reimaginings that curators and passersby compare to Van Gogh and Basquiat. That the former Bellevue patient, estranged from his white-collar conservative folks (whose talking-head chats prove they don’t understand him, his art, or his inexplicable working-class accent), is capable of surviving without meds or outside support is an incredible feat. Yet Boston never expands his scope beyond the standard eccentric character portrait. The only limits he pushes are Streets’s, as when Boston forces the artist to reconnect with an ex who clearly broke his heart.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story mistakenly stated that Johnny Boston had directed one other film, a pornographic movie. This was based on a listing at IMDB.com which credits Boston for a film he tells the Voice he never directed. Boston says he has repeatedly asked IMDB to stop crediting him with the movie, Home Wreckers, which was directed by someone else using the same name. The Voice regrets the error.