Tomi Ungerer can turn red watercolor and a few ink lines into a gagged woman or a boiling pot full of children. That kind of understated abstraction is commonplace now, but, as Far Out Isn't Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story refuses to let you forget, in the 1950s, when Norman Rockwell was still the model for illustration, Ungerer's work was revolutionary. Its charm—be it in his storybooks, his political work, or his erotica—is in its haphazardness, in the illusion you're reading a children's book drawn by a pervert... or porn drawn by a child.
Far Out doesn't mimic Ungerer's light touch: its narrative prefers exposition to impressionism, and its interviews hinge on one-line shockers—like “Alsace is the sphincter of France and we are the first to know when it has indigestion”—rather than Ungerer's subtler tics. Far Out particularly foregrounds Ungerer's sexy rebel persona, pairing voice-over interviews with archive photos of a bearded Ungerer in tight pants.
Ungerer himself is lovably joyful and insecure. The other interviewees, including the late Maurice Sendak, are affectionate and enthusiastic. The film features some inoffensive animated sequences, which, along with its framing of Ungerer as a shocking banned-in-America enigma, belies an eagerness to be edgier that its otherwise standard talking-head documentary format. Although ultimately not as edgy as it wants to be, Far Out Isn't Far Enough is a worthwhile exploration of an underappreciated artist's impact on mid-century illustration and design. For release dates, check online, as they are subject to change.