A Gift of love and heroin

We often have a code among ourselves and those we identify with. Nadya recently mentioned certain people’s common love of tentacles, and for me between the ages of 15 and 18 this code was Gift. It was an art film made by Perry Farrell, likely at the height of his creativity, with his then-wife Casey Niccolli and released after Jane’s Addiction initially broke up in 1992. The plot is loosely woven around a fictional overdose and death of Casey, and grief-stricken Perry’s reaction. Stream of consciousness storytelling combined with concert footage, spoken word, and iconic imagery made an enormous impression on me. Soon I demanded every person I met watch this film. I’d observe their reactions and attempt to decipher whether they were My People.

It’s hard to pin down what was most compelling. Besides the evils of heroin Gift showcased ultra Bohemia – I was surrounded by both at the time. It was inspiring, with the wonderful creativity of Perry and Casey’s style, apartment and Santerian wedding, yet pitiful with their weakness before addiction and the disarray they fall into. They surrounded themselves with beauty and art, but, as it goes, outside their bubble they were ill-fitted for life. Romantic, no? It would be safe to assume that it was the all-encompassing fragility I was attracted to and how much of myself and my friends I saw on the screen. The film is painfully personal, filmed in actual apartments and studios, and feels more like a documentary.

So the 16 year old me would show this film to potential friends and hope they recognized merits and mourned weakness at all the right moments. As a result I’ve seen Gift at least 30 times; I could, in all likelihood, still recite most of the lines. At this point it’s impossible to determine whether this is a even good movie or not – all I know is that for a time it was as if someone was broadcasting from my brain. At the present, I’m terrified of watching it again. It’s been years now and I’m not sure whether it would hold up. That’s what’s interesting about things that affect us most – they stay the same as we evolve at their expense, which makes looking back an unpredictable adventure.

Watch: A clip from the film which was later distributed as a music video.

15 Responses to “A Gift of love and heroin”

  1. foxtongue Says:

    I treasure the VHS copy of Gift I still have. I have no idea how it came into my possession, only that it was transformative to find. It was how lushly they lived, in spite that they didn’t really function outside, that captured me. How richly they had manufactured their life. I highly recommend watching it again.

  2. Zoetica Says:

    Hmm, maybe you’re right. Really great to hear it’s safe to re-watch – I’m actually considering purchasing a VCR just for the occasion!

  3. shane Says:

    Oddly enough I’ve never seen this movie even though she’s forced it upon everyone who was part of her life at that time. Although this is most likely due to the fact that she kept me sheltered from the outside world during our relationship and physically abused me and restricted my diet to only Jack-In-The-Box tacos. Those were dark times indeed…

  4. pmford Says:

    this movie is a great reminder that showering together conserves water.

  5. misstree Says:

    this movie blew open a lot of doors for me. it was glimpses both familiar and alien, and a depth of expression i hadn’t found anywhere else. it could be said that it’s partially to blame for a year as a street poet.

    best. shower scene. ever.

  6. Io Says:

    I saw this movie for the first time at 14 and found it incredibly painful and romantic (yes, even the post-mortem scene with his wife)…I need to watch it again.

  7. Shay Says:

    Well, you’ve got my interest piqued. Searching through the darkest corners of the interblag came up with nothing. Luckily it seems my trusty corner video store has it, so I may have to take it out once I can arrange for a VHS rip. For posterity, if nothing else.

  8. Ashbet Says:

    This looks gorgeous — too bad it’s not available on DVD.

    (BTW, it’s showing up on Amazon used for $20.29 — I’m tempted!)

  9. Zoetica Says:

    Shay – it’s amazing, isn’t it? I didn’t think anything could remain this obscure with the internet’s ways.

    If you rip it to digital I would love a copy; I have it on VHS but no VCR and all this has made me decide to watch it again.

    Ashbet – I’d love to hear what you think of it when you do watch it.

    It’s interesting how many people have mentioned the shower scene – I’d almost forgotten about that, somehow. All the more reason to re-watch!

  10. Shay Says:

    Don’t fret, everything turns up eventually.
    I had a cultural lazyweb post in which I demanded the internets provide me with a copy of a French student film I’d heard of (The All-New Adventures of Chastity Blade), only to have the director comment on that same post two years later telling me it’s available on the French version of the DVD of another film (Bloody Mallory) – and then to have an internet acquaintance (The amazing and talented Alex De Campi) ship it out to me since Amazon.fr wouldn’t ship to Israel. So now I have it, and when I get around to it, so will the rest of the internets.

    I was also looking for ‘Stuff’ (a short film by Johnny Depp and Gibby Haynes about John Frusciante’s heroin years, with cameo by Timothy Leary) for about 2-3 years before youtube exploded and there it was.

    ..Aaaaanyway, I’ll drop you a line when I digitize it.

  11. SteelApathy Says:

    I have to see this now :D too bad i threw my VHS player away. I’m going to have to get a new one anyway, i have a couple of VHS which will just never made it to DVD.

  12. Traci Says:

    I lost my copy years ago, and I weep for the loss. It has such an impact on me in my teenage years.

  13. Leonore Says:

    I found a vhs tape that was left in the back of my closet…a time when my sister had moved out because of being a meth head..my father was quite fed up with the drama she would bring into the home. I watched it and I enjoyed every minute of it. being young and enjoying every second didn’t matter..it was that I didn’t want my sister to be that person that casey projected in the film…I instantly kept away from ppl who were possible drug addicts. But I praised Perry for ever single lyric he sung, and the music that he was a part of. JA was my inspiration to play the way I do. I’ve spoken to the real Jane and I’ve talked with Casey about jewelry only…it was weird..

  14. Sean Patrick Says:

    Somehow even with the forewarning
    I must confess
    I’ve bought drugs in a dress

  15. LeMonkey Says:

    I cherish my original copy on VHS. Perhaps we’ll see this and Soul Kiss coming out on DVD later this year…