Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Film Review: 'Living The American Nightmare (The Story Of A Rockstar)'

'Living The American Nightmare (The Story Of A Rockstar)' 
Dir: Pawl Bazile 

The 2011 documentary 'Living The American Nightmare (The Story Of A Rockstar)' is inspired by the book 'King Of And Empire, To The Shoes Of A Misfit' by former Empire Hideous founder, Myke Hideous, and chronicles the career of the New York underground legend. The film also features interviews with some big names connected to the scene including members of Type O Negative, The Misfits, Danzig, Empire Hideous, Murder Junkies, Life Of Agony and Overkill as well as Bill Ward of Black Sabbath, and journalists and DJs as they dish the dirt on the dark and desperate world of a musician trying to “make it” in America.

The way the documentary is set out is somewhat unusual with the narrative flicking between a wider look at the process of musicians writing, touring, trying to get record deals and living the rock 'n' roll lifestyle and a closer look at the case study of Myke Hideous that runs alongside the story of The Misfits which ultimately converge.

The film's stories are told through jumping vox pops and archival footage, (the quality of which can occasionally vary) and has separate narratives that attempt to intersect at various points. It ultimately feels like you're watching two documentaries in one, which perhaps would have been a better prospect with both sides being more focussed on their subjects and less scattered in their focus. But the documentary is still nonetheless insightful and revealing in a brutally honest way.

Myke Hideous' narrative of his early struggles, forming Empire Hideous and being a star of his local scene but never making it to the big time until the ultimately ill fated opportunity to join the misfits and the fallout of that time is engrossing. It's a frustrating look at someone achieving their dreams and ultimately blowing up in their face. Although his central role is buffeted by a huge cast of supporting characters, it remains a powerful and compelling story.

The show is ultimately stolen by the last and heavily confessional interview of Type O Negative's Peter Steele who died shortly after the filming of the documentary. Although his portion of the documentary totals less than fifteen minutes, his experiences as he tells them carry the most poignant weight.

The extra interviews included serve to further expand on the stories of the Empire Hideous breakup, The Misfits and Michael Graves, relationships, and more of Peter Steele's insights. These again could have been worked into the main narrative had this been two separate documentaries.

The highs and lows of every level of the music business are wrapped up within 'Living The American Nightmare (The Story Of A Rockstar)'. Yes it does often lose focus, and it jumps about a bit too much. But the lessons contained within should mean that it is required viewing for anyone who has ever picked up an instrument and dreamed about being a rockstar. The people in this documentary have literally made every mistake so you don't have to.


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