American - The Bill Hicks Story details
|Formats:||15 DVD, Blu-ray|
|Directors:||Paul Thomas, Matt Harlock|
American - The Bill Hicks Story
|Run time:||1 hour 43 minutes|
|Rental release:||27 Sep 2010|
|Hearing impaired subtitles:||English|
By Jonathan Crocker from LOVEFiLM
Filmmaker Matt Harlock and Paul Thomas chronicle the life, art and philosophy of a singular performer with the documentary American - The Bill Hicks Story.
Most helpful review
FILM review: Great documentaryBy MagicLemur (46 reviews) from Banbury , 09 Jul 2010
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS Show review anywayHide
[Highly rated reviewer]Please note: This is not a review of the DVD (as yet), as it hasn't yet been released (though I have it reserved). I just felt that it would be good to publicise this film through letting people know what it's like. If you don't approve of this, then please feel free to comment (but note that few reviewers are up-front about pre-reviewing things).
However, if you want to find out about the film, then please read on.
I approached this film half expecting a cash-in, as Bill Hicks' legacy seems to have become lucrative for his relatives & each new release is often more brazen than the last (e.g. 2003's Shock & Awe).
Happily, this is not the case & the film seems to be both a genuine & sincere homage to the man himself, but also a real attempt to bring something fresh & unseen to fan-boys (such as myself).
The plot is fairly simple - it starts off with his early years & ends with his death from cancer. In the process, they place each of the DVD's in context & show lots of interview clips of fellow comedians, friends & family.
So far, so predictable.
The great thing about this film though is that they have included many, many pieces of unseen footage & have strived to put him in the context of fellow comedians (all of whom are excellent - e.g. Jimmy Pineapple)
The most original contribution that the film maker's have made is to take all the 100's of photos of Bill & turned them into action-stills. A lot of the material by the man is the same, but he always had a gift of being photogenic & hence this factor symbolises the director's efforts to bring something new to the table.
By no means is this film perfect & I have heard some people say 'It's not that good', but not from anyone who's actually seen it.
One thing I can pick out is that there is nothing about his relationships or Girlfriends that were so formative to much of his comedy (e.g. his Fiance Colleen McGarr).
There is also the fact that the film ends with the 'It's Just a Ride' scene, which is fast becoming cliche (e.g. Zeitgeist).
(Oh, and there is a bit at the end of the film which grates a little, where the screen says something to the effect of 'The Hicks family continue to live in ... & are all remarkably intelligent'. Although they may be, this seems a little bit of an affectation towards them...)
Besides this, there was too much to like about this film. It was really interesting to find out how Mr Hicks used to take mushrooms on a ranch with friends & about his final cancer-ridden days.
I hope that, when the DVD is finally released, it will include full extras of his 'Rant in E-minor'/ 'Arizona Bay' routines but, for now, I really hope that people will flock to buy this DVD. If the evidence of George W Bush is anything to go by, America (& the World) could really do with knowing more about Bill Hicks.
Here's hoping they move onto George Carlin next...
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Interesting, touching and sometimes surreal.By jayarte (29 reviews) from Near Lancaster , 21 Jun 2011Extremely interesting and touching film, particularly the style which was documentary with surreal moments. Most engaging throughout.
We learnt a lot about Bill Hicks the man, and his humour.
UninterestingBy Kev B from Manchester , 21 May 2011This is a boring account of the wonderful Bill Hicks - does not do him justice at all.
American Firefly ?By Minopater (261 reviews) from Wallington , 09 May 2011For someone like me who had heard about Bill Hicks and how great he was but knew nothing about him either as a person or a professional this film biography was very insightful, although I suspect that Bill had a darker side which isn't really pursued in the film as it is more of a hagiography rather than a warts and all revelation. I liked the creative way the director used stills in the early part of the film to narrate Bill's coming of age and the commentary from his family and friends. Most of all though I enjoyed the excerpts of his stage performances and the fact that mostly he still seemed funny if not quite so relevant. I was left wondering how he would have coped had he survived. Would he have gone on to greater things or would he have burned out ?
Utter drivelBy a customer , 07 May 2011As if time had slowed to a crawl (like the third level in Inception). Didn't make it past the half hour mark but it felt like a month. Have now realised that Bill Hicks' enitire life was dull and he just wasn't funny.
An American Tale....By gepete80 (80 reviews) from London , 27 Apr 2011Bill Hicks was arguably one of the worlds greatest stand-up comedians. Cutting, blunt and insightful, Hicks was a rare talent, able to blend a touch for intelligent comedy with a prickly demeanour. He had gone through the mill a few times, going through drink and drugs and coming out the other side with even more stories to tell. He was rarely on stage without a cigarette in hand and woe betide anyone who attempt a heckle.
He tragically died after a battle with pancreatic cancer at the age of only 32 but not before he had wowed audiences not just in the States but in the UK also. American: The Bill Hicks Story is a documentary with a twist, focusing on Hicks many ups as well as downs and charting his life until his untimely death in 1994. The main contributors include Hicks family and very close personal friends as well as fellow comedians but is kept to a small bunch who well and truly knew Hicks and what made him tick.
As a consequence the portrait painted is favourable as you would expect. There was obviously a lot of affection for the man but the friends dont pull punches when describing their shared experiences with someone who they knew possessed more talent and ambition then all of them combined. The stories told from his family, especially his parents are quite warming and give the somewhat intense persona a warm undertone. We are shown unseen family home videos and photographs which show Hicks in a whole new light far from the smoking, swearing, funny-man that the world had come to know and love.
The twist comes in the presentation. For almost seventy-five percent of the movie the contributors are only heard, because this documentary is visually represented by an almost cartoon visual storyboard using archive pictures of Hicks, his family and his friends. Its very cleverly done, with great shots used at the right moments giving this a brilliant artistic quality standing it apart from other biographical documentaries. Its very well thought out and actually enhances the feel to the movie. In life, Hicks had wanted to set himself apart from the rest, and this documentary does exactly the same. Im sure he would have approved.
We also get archive clips of Hicks on stage, including some of his more famous routines as well as his onstage outspoken onslaught against the ATF after the Waco disaster, where Hicks was actually present. In the final quarter the storyboard is left out as the family and friends speak openly to camera about the moment they found out about Hicks prognosis. No element here feels misplaced and what we get is a telling and well presented portrait of the man, his methods and his mentality.
In short, American: The Bill Hicks Story is a well presented and well thought out tribute to a great performer taken well before his time. That he is still referenced and quoted to this day is a testament to how far ahead he was and its a shame that he never got to see how revered he eventually became.