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August 9, 2010 | by  | in Film |
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American: The Bill Hicks Story

American: The Bill Hicks Story
Director: Matt Harlock

There is a myth of Bill Hicks. We are told of a bright-eyed young stand up who, like the progressive rockers of old, threw away his old stuff and strove for reinvention and righteousness, chasing his art’s truth through drugs and alcohol, before cancer killed him at the peak of his excellence. According to American: The Bill Hicks Story, it’s surprising where that legend maps onto what actually happened in his life. His relationship with alcohol and eventual abstinence from it and most other drugs doesn’t sit well with what I felt when listening to Tool. That’s what’s cool about honest documentaries: you can learn stuff that will alter your perceptions. There was little romancing of drugs or sobriety, or of being a comedian or a star, and while you could see the personal love in the interviews, you could see that he fucked those people off quite often as well.

Director Matt Harlock’s visual scheme for the film was unique and profoundly personal. They matched a collage of archived photographs to animation, scored with music that Hicks’ band made, to the interviews with his close friends and family. This created an authoritative narrative with a sense of amusing and psychedelic timelessness. I’m so stealing that concept if I get the chance, it was beautiful.

Three distinct types of people sat around me at the screening of American: comedy geeks (guilty), drug culture nerds (guilty), and the over sixty(?!)­—I don’t understand why there were so many geriatrics there, maybe they like watching films about dead people and the past, maybe their feet were sore and they wanted to sit down. I can’t begrudge them this, as I too often have aches in my feet. My point though, is this: you don’t think of the ravaged by age enjoying counter-culture stuff, unless they look like a burnt-out hippy. That misses what Hicks was about. He’d write intellectually honest material that would play well with a literate HBO-style crowd. Part of the aforementioned Hicksian canon sees Bill frustrated with his lack of recognition in the borscht/bible belts of America, heading to Britain where he became an international icon. As long as you’re intelligent you can appreciate what the man stood for.

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About the Author ()

Nic Sando is a god amongst men, fifteen fathoms high he be, with strange and wyrd powers at his disposal. Only a fool won't harken his ears to the east when he hears The Sando man stumping his way.

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  1. theotherguy says:

    hmm.. I could have sworn there were two directors as I sat there animating for three years.. Maybe I just imagined me..

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