Friday, June 5, 2015

Heaven Adores You

Nicholas Dylan Rossi's indie doc about indie darling the late Elliott Smith is a loving, mysterious and not wholly satisfying film about the singer / songwriter who died from "apparently" self-inflicted stab wounds to the chest in 2003 after rocketing to fame as a prolific and insightful poet and musician. Docs about artists, particularly those who die young and tragically, frequently try to piece together the subject's past and pain by talking to family, friends and fans and examining the subject's work. Rossi tags each of these bases but the spaces between the recollections and Smith's own musings (often captured during the media interviews he deplored) do not contain answers to Smith's deep and inconsolable disconnection from life. Questions rise, are acknowledged but not always addressed. If Smith did in fact leave his Dallas home for Portland, Oregon, as a teenage what was it about his home that was so toxic? If his relationship with his father was a lingering painful part of his childhood, what made it so. Why such a rapid decline after his celebrated Oscar night appearance in 1998 when he played his nominated song Miss Misery from Good Will Hunting and after two subsequent, well-crafted and moody releases and moves first to New York and then to Los Angeles. What demon was chasing him? It's never clear. No, documentaries are not journalism and they're not history (strictly speaking). The world presented to the film goer has been filtered through the camera's lens and through the memories, passions and prejudices of those who agree to be interviewed. And these make this film wonderfully intimate. But I left it feeling that the decidedly enigmatic Smith was less so but still so. Much of this by turns joyful and disconcerting film is quite lovely and, of course, Smith's music is evocative and beautiful. Recommended.

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