American: The Bill Hicks Story

By , Contributor
I get pretty compulsive when I fall in love with an artist, and next to Elvis Presley, I’m pretty sure that there is no one that I’ve been more obsessed with than the late, million years ahead of his time, comedian Bill Hicks.

I’ve heard all the CD’s; seen the already numerous documentaries; read all the books; scoured the Internet for every clip and concert moment I could find, and it’s always been time extremely well spent. Infinitely funny, prescient, and thoughtful, Hicks set a bar of truth telling that for me even Richard Pryor never reached.

Oddly, I sort of looked at the latest addition to the Hicks world with some measure of disdain. What exactly could American: The Bill Hicks Story add to the remembrance of a life that has been well covered and sifted through. The documentary has been out for about six months now, and can be seen on pay per view, iTunes, YouTube and various other places on the Internet.

I finally sat down to watch American and I’m thrilled to be so utterly and completely wrong. American: The Bill Hicks Story manages to be the definitive portrait of Bill Hicks not only for his career highlights, but for its amazing ability to bring a caring, vital, driven and loving human being back to life.

Hicks’ too short life was one of ideals and ideas, but oddly enough the amazing thing about this documentary is its unreal cinematography. English filmmakers Matt Harlock and Paul Thomas somehow took all of the photographs, home videos and existent concert footage of Hicks and animate it into a work that Hicks’ career and life truly deserved. The old photographs literally come alive and present Hicks’ life into a three dimensional drama that really has to be seen to be appreciated.

I’ve seen a number of modern three dimensional movies, but none of them came alive for me like what these two guys have achieved with a bunch of old stills, home video, and whatever was lucky enough to be caught by a camcorder or two throughout the years.

Especially effective is a bunch of early Hicks video that I've never seen before that prove pretty convincingly that Bill could have flourished as a mainstream comedian had that been the path he wanted for himself.

I’ve written a ton about Bill Hicks in the past, and I’ll probably continue to beat the drum for years, but I can’t be happier to say that American: The Bill Hicks Story is the definitive document both for those who know nothing about the man as well as the hard core converts like myself. There has been excellent work done with the Hicks story in the past in all formats, but none leave you with quite the sense of the humanity and heartbreak of the man’s life that American does.

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Brad Laidman has been a freelance writer since 2000. His work has appeared in Film Threat, Perfect Sound Forever, and Rock and Rap Confidential. His defense of The Kinks' Dave Davies so moved the legendary guitarist that Davies labeled Brad his hero and he has the email to prove it.

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