All I Can Say (Oscilloscope Laboratories)

All I Can Say

When Blind Melon frontman Shannon Hoon died suddenly in 1995, the world was shocked. How could a guy who wrote such a beautiful and uplifting song as “No Rain,” one of the decade’s most ubiquitous radio hits, die in such a sad and pathetic way—alone on his tour bus, the result of too much cocaine? The song—propelled by an adorable video of a little girl in a bee suit—proved an anthem for disaffected youth and the misfits of the world, offering hope and love and a positive message. For the last five years of his life, Hoon constantly videotaped the world around him. After several years of development with producer Danny Cinch, the long-awaited documentary film All I Can Say has finally been released.

But one really can’t call All I Can Say a documentary. Instead, it’s a documentation of Hoon’s life, starting from when he first picked up the video camera that would be his constant companion, all the way to his last moments of life. No narration provided;  Hoon himself tells his story. Aside from the use of captions and the rare use of outside footage (for necessity’s sake, such as the “No Rain” video and the band’s appearance at Woodstock), this is pure, raw footage. 

Hoon’s angelic voice and boyish looks and young death beatified him.  But Hoon was no saint; as he explains, the main reason he went to California had less to do with seeking fame and fortune and more to do with getting out of an environment fueling his self-destruction. Not that the change necessarily did him any good; throughout All I Can Say, we see a young man quite willing to enjoy his self-destruction; he’s always ready to party, often picking up the tab for everyone partying with him.  We see anger, outbursts, and the consequences of his actions: a smashed hotel room incident ends with him getting arrested.

Yet as All I Can Say progresses, one witnesses Hoon becoming more self-aware of his actions. Hoon enters rehab after a particularly violent run-in with police. A few scenes later, we find Hoon listening to his answering machine the day after his hospital release. Several of the messages are from friends wanting him to come party with him. the look on his face shows true mental conflict.  At one point near the end, as the band record their second album Soup, he talks about his anxiety about being in New Orleans, and his desire to get out of the city, as he feels the pull of his demons. (Eerily prophetic, this; he would die in New Orleans in October 1995.)

Where All I Can Say excels is when it allows us to watch events unfold, through the eyes of the protagonist. The “No Rain” phenomenon offers both a keen insight and a painful truth about having a hit record. We witness Hoon tracking his vocals in April 1992. We see him talking about the album cover, featuring the little sister of drummer Glenn Graham. A few moments on, we witness the cover coming to life as the band film the video.

As time goes on, we see Hoon filming MTV and other reports about the video’s success. And at first, it’s nice. You can tell he is enjoying it. But then…the song starts to overwhelm. Interview questions and fan comments start to irk him; with all the band has to offer, he’s feeling as if the song is eclipsing everything else. By the end, he’s positively testy when asked about it. But when you have an interviewer actually telling him that his teenage son has dismissed them as one hit wonders, and how he feels about that—can you really blame him for hating the question?

At the end, though, a bright spot emerges: the birth of his daughter, Nico. One senses he realizes the gravity of fatherhood, and he looks both scared for the future—his childhood was dysfunctional, to put it mildly—yet ready to take on the task. Sadly, that was not to be; On October 21st, 1995, he would die of a drug-related heart attack in New Orleans. All I Can Say ends the last roll of footage from that day. (With a glimpse of this footage shown at the beginning of the film, it made me nervous; would the film end with a Lisa Lopez/Lil Peep-style last moments alive scene? Thankfully, no; if it does exist, kudos for excluding it.) 

All I Can Say  could have been molded into a puff piece. It’s to Danny Cinch’s credit that they didn’t avoid the hard parts and reality of Hoon’s lifestyle. As a result, All I Can Say nobly serves Hoon’s memory, offering the man at his most vulnerable and most honest. A finer film about Hoon will never be made.

Purchase All I Can Say: Oscilloscope Laboratories

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