Just after the closing credits of Color Me Obsessed, Gorman Bechard’s 2011 documentary about the rise, fall, and lasting influence of the ‘80s punk rock band The Replacements, musician Patrick Stickles struggled to articulate just what made their music so exceptional.
“If you’re a human being,” he said, “this is the best ... This is the most human band. Music for humans. No band has deserved that title more than the good old Replacements. Music for humans.”
One of Connecticut’s most prolific and accomplished independent filmmakers, Bechard has spent the past 30 years making movies as deserving of that title as the Minneapolis punk band that he loves so dearly. Passionate, opinionated, restless, vulnerable, and always eager to show audiences something new, Bechard’s cinematic output might best be described as movies for humans. His films approach complex subjects with empathy, voracity, and humor, diving deeper and deeper until the viewer sees something of himself reflected on the screen.
Bechard, who grew up in Waterbury and has spent most of his adult life living in Hamden, came by WNHH’s “Deep Focus” to talk about three decades of making movies about unconventional relationships and passionate obsessions, from his 1987 cult-classic slasher-comedy Psychos in Love to his 2015 animal rights documentary A Dog Named Gucci. To listen to the complete interview, click on the audio player at the bottom of the article, or subscribe to the WNHH Arts Mix podcast on iTunes.
Bechard’s filmmaking career spans a diversity of genres, subjects, and budgets, starting in the mid-1980s with low-budget horror flicks and extending through the 1990s and early 2000s with the occasional studio drama and indie romantic comedy. He has spent most of the past few years, however, making crowdfunded documentaries on his favorite — and, he argues, your should-be favorite — rock and roll bands.
The first of Bechard’s run of rock docs was 2011’s Color Me Obsessed: A Film about the Replacements. Originally slated to appear in the documentary as another passionate defender of the sloppy, unpredictable, and beloved Minneapolis punk quartet, Bechard found himself in charge of making the movie after the original director lost her editing machine and all of her footage.
“I was lying in bed one night and I’m thinking to myself: I don’t believe in God, but I believe in the Replacements,” he said, reflecting on what drove him to shape the documentary around the response to the band as opposed to around the band itself. “Can I get people to believe in the Replacements in the same way people believe in God? They don’t see him, they don’t hear him. It’s all done through the stories of others. I remember waking my wife up, and she said, ‘that’s the stupidest idea you’ve ever had.’” But Bechard stuck with it.
The result is a movie with a paradoxically rich and absent center; a story that asymptotically approaches infinity. Bechard brings together rock critics, fellow musicians, and die-hard fans to talk about their history with the Replacements. They share their favorite albums, their favorite concerts, their widely varying theories on when the band sold out and when that act of selling out actually started resulting in bad music. The movie is uniquely about the Replacements, but also universally about that special relationship you have with the band that changed your life.
After the popular and critical success of Color Me Obsessed, Bechard quickly made two more punk rock documentaries, but in drastically different fashions. What Did You Expect? (2012) is a straightforward concert doc that follows the Archers of Loaf on a particular night of their reunion tour, alternating between direct interviews with the band and footage of them performing at the Cat’s Cradle in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
But Bechard’s next movie, Every Everything (2013), took the formal experimentation of Color Me Obsessed and flipped it on its head. Inspired by the highly-focused approach of Errol Morris’s The Fog of War, Bechard sought to tell the story of Hüsker Dü, another seminal ‘80s punk band from Minneapolis, by zeroing in on one perspective: that of Grant Hart.
A gifted drummer, eccentric performer, and notoriously difficult bandmate, Hart is the sole subject of the movie. Whereas the absence of the Replacements in Color Me Obsessed lent the band an almost mythical stature, the inescapable presence of Hart in Every Everything reveals a potentially larger-than-life character as painfully, beautifully human. Hart is bitter, funny, egotistical, forgiving, brilliant, hypocritical. His solitary voice presents an entirely different way of connecting with a musician and his music, albeit a way that is just as rich as that offered in Color Me Obsessed.
In between a recently finished documentary about animal rights and a soon-to-be finished documentary about New Haven’s iconic pizzerias, Bechard has chosen the young country rocker Lydia Loveless as the subject of his fourth music documentary.
Who Is Lydia Loveless?, which Bechard is currently raising money for and hopes to debut at the Big Sky Film Festival in February, makes yet another proposition on what constitutes a rock documentary. This time, the musician is young and up-and-coming. This time, he follows her on tour. This time, he’s looking at the unique challenges aspiring rock and roll musicians face in 2016.
“I try to make a film that fits the artist,” Bechard observed. “‘In terms of Lydia, I wanted to show every side. I wanted to show how funny she was. I wanted to show what she was like live. I wanted to show how she could break your heart one minute with this gorgeous acoustic song, and the next, the entire stage is in shambles. I wanted to focus on what being at her level is like, and really go into detail.”
Bechard has made a career of observing from all sides and going into detail, using his films to explore people and subjects that are both complex and utterly relatable. Movies for humans, indeed.