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Heaven Adores You

Monday 11 May 2015, by Hazel Green

The film opens on an interview with Elliott, his voice characteristically unassuming, sincere and generous in spirit. "I’m the wrong kind of person," he says, "to be really big and famous." However, throughout we learn he did enjoy a certain amount of fame; even describing his incongruous appearance at the 1998 Academy Awards as fun for the day, a kick. And yet, friends talk of how Elliott fled local acclaim in Portland for relative obscurity in New York. According to one former acquaintance, "Gradually the world took him away."

Heaven Adores You is a warm and honest tribute to a complex musician who inspired, and continues to inspire, an incredible connection between himself and his fans. It shows sides of him ¬often overlooked – such as his great talent for fun, friendship and anarchic humour – as well the darkness in his life and of his songs. Rossi emulates the ordinary, everyday style of Elliott’s music videos, underlining the sense that as he struggled against fame, those qualities became increasingly important to him, aiming all the while to be the man in the street, the friend, the man alone.

Every time I see Elliott interviewed, in this film and elsewhere, it seems as if he has no desire to impress anyone. And yet, for fans like me, he is a singular figure, a genius, a magician; able to touch that inner being, the place where emotions swirl around inside us. His music, voice and words become part of our world as only genius music can. Elliott himself would only say, "I like music, you know, that’s the thing it’s very uncomplicated."

Throughout the film his friends and those who worked with him try to express and explain the effect of his music and his performances on them. This is the dilemma I find myself in – how can I find words that can say what I feel about a person who, from the very first second I heard his music (it was Between the Bars), has become a golden strand at the core of my sensibility? Some people would compare the sound, the beautiful finger picking and voice, the sound of the song, to Paul Simon/Simon & Garfunkel. Ah well, comparisons! They will always make comparisons. The word ’pretty’ doesn’t cut it, since Elliott creates an underlying deeper, darker tone, notes of the deeper colours of life and struggles that would deny the listener (if truly listening) the cosy world of pleasing, easy listening for a few moments in a comfy chair.

It’s not pretty or pleasing or easy, and this lack of easy harmony is there in Elliott’s face. Photographer and friend, Autumn de Wilde explained how she was surprised to put the face to the voice, how could that voice come out of this crazy, intense face? How strange to first hear the voice: angelic, ghostly, sweet; and then to see the man; peculiar how my surprise was soon dissipated into Yes! Yes! As it should be. Not a pretty boy with a pretty voice.

Magically some of his songs were released posthumously and I felt joyful with the news, a sentiment reiterated in the film as though after all this time "he was alive in there." I stand with all those who expressed love for the man and his music, the music that stays alive in us.

Dir., Nickolas Rossi, 2014

Heaven Adores you is showing at the Bertha Dochouse until Weds 13th May

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