All I Can Say review – Shannon Hoon’s kaleidoscopic images of pre-internet fame | Movies


In 1995 musician Shannon Hoon died of an accidental cocaine overdose, leaving behind (like Kurt Cobain) a partner and infant daughter. But this collaged video diary, assembled from the camcorder archives Hoon shot between 1990 and his death as he rose to fame as lead singer of alt-rockers Blind Melon, is – cheeringly – not a grim trawl through the gutter of excess. Rather, it’s a quizzical time capsule of pre-internet fame from the perspective of a troubled but capable young man who knew his way around a camera.

The brawny, snub-nosed Indiana native, often shooting through a fisheye lens, appears here as the boy in the bubble as he arrives in Los Angeles and quickly integrates into the city’s rock scene. Hoon sings backup vocals for Guns N’ Roses, and then Blind Melon’s jaunty strumalong hit No Rain, released in 1993 a year after their debut album, briefly makes them the toast of MTV. But amid this whirlwind, with the same pointed ability to spin the mundane that marked his lyrics, he constantly gravitates to the marginalia with his camera: a cat emerging from a flowerbed, a roadie sleeping in a laundry cart, Lenny Kravitz licking the lens.

Blind Melon’s present-day status as 90s alt-rock also-rans means the main interest of All I Can Say lies in the nature of celebrity rather than the band itself. Viewed backwards down the kaleidoscope, the music-biz hullabaloo and rock posturing seem as quaint and obsolete as the many random cultural marker-posts, like a Rolling Stones song becoming the first to be released on CD-Rom. But Hoon is instinctively aware of this absurdity, complaining of the fuss over their iconic girl-in-a-bee-costume mascot: “I think people are analysing it way too deep.” (He’s lucky he wasn’t famous 30 years later.)

At one point Hoon says that he hopes to move into film-making, and it’s true he has an eye. The film’s flotsam flow is of course the work of three other directors, but the original angles are Hoon’s; and many – like the shot dodging the wheels of a moving freight train – are adventurous. It can’t of course be taken at face value as the truth about his drug addiction or broader emotional life, but it is a fine portrait of a seeker wading through the human reality at the heart of fame.

All I Can Say is released in cinemas and on digital platforms on Friday.

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