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Film Review: John Van Hamersveld - CRAZY WORLD AIN’T IT

Give yourself a 10-minute long cinematic hug - go watch John Van Hamersveld - CRAZY WORLD AIN’T IT. You deserve it.

Dave Tourjé’s and Christopher Sibley’s short documentary, "John Van Hamersveld - CRAZY WORLD AIN’T IT", is a song of praise to the life and art of American artist John Van Hamersveld, celebrating his unbelievable impact on the world of visual arts.

Van Hamersveld, a prominent artistic figure since the early 60’s, is known for the legendary artwork, posters, and album covers he created for some of the biggest household names at the time. The long list includes the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, Kiss, the Rolling Stones, and many more. Being a major source of inspiration to many artists to this day, the film offers an enchanting glimpse into Van Hamersveld’s life experiences and journey in arts, and carries an encouraging universal message to anyone who’s trying to emerge as an artist today.

Starting with a series of short interviews, the film features several artists and scholars of different disciplines who refer to Van Hamersveld and his work as a magical enigma, describing him as a man “of a different mind”, and speaking in awe of his ability to capture the essence of a whole time period in a single piece. The word ‘iconic’ is mentioned more than once, and each interviewee brings up a different angle to the profound impact this man has had on the way we see and create art.

The film presents itself effortlessly to the audience. Vibrant snippets of interviews and many of Van Hamersveld's works flow smoothly on screen, to the sound of 60s style surf-rock music that creates the perfect atmosphere for this short. The fresh edit plants you right in the colorful, sunstruck surf-era that is a big part of who the artist is and was a main source of influence to him.

After hearing so much about the man, I’ll admit that I felt some real excitement in the second half of the short, when Van Hamersveld himself made his first appearance on screen. The film did a great job building up his entrance, and Van Hamersveld didn’t disappoint. As he lets his audience in and unveils his personal memories on camera, it suddenly becomes very clear that we’re in the presence of something else, something rare and outworldly. A phenomenon.

Putting his famous phrase “Crazy World Ain't It” into the title of the film was a clever choice by Directors Dave Tourjé and Christopher Sibley. More than anything, I find this title to be a beautiful caption of the artistic process that each of us who chose a career in art has to go through. This film doesn’t offer a resolution or any answers, but acknowledgement that this process is not easy (which could often be more encouraging than any word of advice), and a warm hug to everyone who considers themselves an artist. In the words of Van Hamersveld, “Crazy world ain't it – that's the world we live in."

Crazy World Ain't It won Best Sound Design and Honorable Mention: Documentary at the New York Film Awards, October 2019, and was nominated for Best Documentary Short of the year at the 4th annual New York Film Awards 2020.


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