DVD review: Heaven Adores You (The Life & Music of Elliott Smith)

Heaven Adores You (The Life & Music of Elliott Smith)

Eagle Vision [Release date 17.07.15]

Several things are clear from this elegant documentary of the life and music of Elliott Smith.  Firstly, he was revered by those whose lives he touched, and secondly, as evidenced by some of the footage shortly before his untimely death, he was a tormented and deeply troubled soul.  There are many parallels to be found between Smith and our own Syd Barrett.

Cleverly constructed using interviews and performances over his career, interspersed with talking heads and beautifully shot complementary footage, it tells the Elliott Smith story  from his earliest years, through his time in the punk rock band Heatmiser and his introspective solo career, until his untimely death in 2003.

While he found uncomfortable acknowledgment when his song ‘Miss Misery’, from the film Good Will Hunting was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Original Song category in 1998, his work remains largely unacknowledged outside of an almost cult following.

Developing a unique ethereal multi layered style, it’s probably fair to say that Smith is not exactly ‘mainstream’ and something of an ‘acquired taste’, he emerged as a ‘big fish’ from the relative backwater of Portland, Oregon.

It may not be a closed gene pool, but the almost religious awe with which he regarded by the ‘talking heads’ he left behind would make me think twice about letting most of them set foot across my doorstep.

Smith was clearly driven by demons.  Demons that oversaw him drive a kitchen knife into his heart following an argument with his girlfriend.  Quite why such a short and tragic life should deserve such celebration is a little beyond me.  It’s like slowing down to observe a car crash.  But one thing seems indisputable – you get a whole lot better when you’re dead.
One for the already converted and the morbidly curious.  But very nicely made.  ***1/2

Review by Pete Whalley

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