Ahead of a special screening at FACT of the Elliott Smith documentary Heaven Adores You, Getintothis’ James Sullivan anticipates a heartbreaking and emotional evening.
The much-lauded Elliott Smith documentary Heaven Adores You finally makes its way to Liverpool this week.
A year after its premiere at the San Francisco International Film Festival, it’s showing at FACT on Wednesday 20th May at 9pm.
First-time director Nickolas Rossi decided upon making the film while living close to what’s become a shrine for Smith in LA: the swirly-painted wall used on the front cover of his final album Figure 8. After shooting a short memorial video based around the wall, Rossi began raising support on Kickstarter for a full-length documentary.
The film uses the landscape of the three principal cities in Smith’s adult life – Portland, New York and Los Angeles – to trace his journey. From whispered acoustic shows in Portland, through indie hero-worship, to the most unlikely of Oscar nominations for his contributions to the Good Will Hunting soundtrack.
That nomination was seen by many as a triumph for the power of substance over surface; the ultimate lank-haired outsider in a smudged white suit on the glitziest stage of all. He seemed to take the nomination in the spirit it deserved: a surreal invitation to a vapid spray-tanned ball that he was somehow allowed to crash for two and a half minutes.
But at what cost did it come? Five years later he was found dead at his home with two stab wounds to the chest. A coroner’s report remains inconclusive as to whether or not they were self-inflicted. A history of addiction, mental health problems and brushes with fame seemed to overwhelm somebody who just wasn’t equipped to cope.
Rossi has promised to place the music centre stage, and avoid the trite tale of a doomed, sensitive soul. He’s collated interviews with all the major figures in Smith’s life – his sister, friend and photographer Autumn de Wilde, collaborators like Jon Brion, Larry Crane and Joanna Bolme – plus over a dozen unreleased recordings, exclusive concert footage and photos.
His songs inspire a rare and deep devotion, ranging from heartbreakingly intimate to joyfully expansive pop symphonies.
If the film gets even close to capturing the humanity and beauty of his music, it’s an absolute must-see.