Several years ago, in my tiny one bedroom apartment on Princeton I was having coffee with Julian. I believe they were going to go see Jane’s Addiction soon, or maybe they had just been to a concert. I was probably musing on how in 1994 I thought that I would never get to see them in concert, but there was this movie*. It included concert footage, but it wasn’t a concert movie. It had what appeared to be real footage of Perry and the band’s life, but it wasn’t a documentary. It had interludes that were funny, but I wouldn’t call it a funny movie in a million years. It was so strange and beautiful and real and terrifying and repulsive. It was called “Gift.”
I only knew one person with a copy and I remember watching it in her basement. So the time and place were tremendously formative of my impression of the movie. I was never exactly sober either. Was the movie everything I remembered, or was I an impressionable teenager? Just mentioning it let me know I needed to watch it again.
Julian and I made a pact to figure out a way to watch it ASAP.
If you do a search for “Jane’s Addiction Gift” on Google you’ll come up with a lot of writing from people who were teenagers in the 80s and 90s talking about passing around VHS tapes and endless generations of copies. It seems that in 2010 Perry promised that it was going to be released on DVD. That never happened. I mean really, even at the first release in 1993 the band had already broken up two years earlier. On Amazon you can pay as much as $200 for a used VHS, which breaks my damn brain. You can get one for 10% of that on ebay, but it is still a VHS. Do you have a VHS player? I don’t.
So, maybe six years went by and the pact to watch “Gift” went unfulfilled. “Hey, we need to watch that movie,” Julian would remind me. I’d look online again for the DVD version to no avail and let the pact slide. Finally Julian laid down the law. “This year, for my birthday I want you to watch that Jane’s Addiction movie with me. Enough is enough.” OK, what else could I do? I had to send Dave to the internet to find it in a watchable format.
Ten minutes later I had it. Why didn’t I do this years ago? Who even knows?
This is how Julian and I found ourselves sitting on my Ikea couch in my very respectable house with a mortgage, across the living room from the spot where soon some newly upholstered chairs will sit watching a movie that I watched when I was 17 and assumed that I would never want any of these things. Oh life. Not that I’m that different than I was then and it turns out I still really enjoy weird avant garde films about my favorite bands.
You read that right. I still like the movie. Sarah asked me last night if it stood the test of time. I honestly don’t know. Yes? I guess? I’ve watched some movies as an adult that I loved when I was younger that I definitely didn’t love anymore, I’m looking at you “Lost Boys,” but I don’t know if I ever loved “Gift.” It was every bit as pretty, confusing, fascinating, and bizarre as it was before. I noticed nuances that I hadn’t before and I think I really changed my understanding of what the hell is going on with the “plot.”
Did Julian like it? I think so, maybe? You’ll have to ask them. It seems that maybe they fell into the category of “probably should have seen it in the 90’s, but luck did not favor it.” As Sarah said, “How the hell does that happen?”
If you’ve made it this far you might think I’m going to recommend that you watch “Gift.” I’m really not going to be responsible for making that recommendation. I’m just not. However I will say that if you feel compelled, based on this description of my experience to see it, you can find it on line. It isn’t easy to watch. The content is very real and sometimes graphically bizarre and stomach turning. There’s a whole lot of uncomfortable language and attitudes. If I only just saw it now I don’t think I would be writing quite this post.
*Incidentally, I did see them in 1997 at the Fillmore in San Francisco. It was every bit as great as I hoped it would be.