If All Goes Wrong, a Smashing Pumpkins fan review
Written by Arthur van Pelt
So, here we were, with 4 SPfreakies in Gent, in a partly filled obscure little cinema inside the Vooruit Theatre, to see the world premiere of If All Goes Wrong, the latest documentary of the Smashing Pumpkins. Vooruit, by the way, is the same place where the Smashing Pumpkins played a gig on 1992/01/17 during their European leg of the 1992 Tour, so we already knew it would be a place with history. And yes, it is indeed. The building and everything inside it just breaths history. Just a few footsteps outside the historical centre of Gent, Vooruit is the place to be for alternative cinema, indie & other music concerts, DJ gigs and is completed with a good biological restaurant with a Fair Trade menu.
Anyway, after spending a good day in Gent, rounded off with a nice meal in the open air on the banks of the river Leie that splits the city of Gent in 2 parts, we were ready to see the documentary. Because of its important moment, Jack Gulick, the producer and director, in person, introduced it with a few words, and watched it together with us and the rest of the audience. He also announced a Q & A session at the end of the documentary, so it promised to be a very intense and very special moment…
Milan, Shannen, Sven and Arthur in Gent; Belgium street sign done by cartoonist Pug (!?)
The promises came true. From the very first moment the audience was sucked into a sometimes painful but also joyful movie about the current state of Billy Corgan and the other members of the Smashing Pumpkins. The documentary is based around many of the new songs that were written by Billy Corgan during the Residency Shows that the Smashing Pumpkins did in the USA in 2007. In historical order we see Billy write and record in his hotel room, we see the band practice and perform them, and meanwhile we get a pretty up close and personal look into the life and times of the new band. In the documentary we see the multi-layered personality of Billy Corgan struggling with the past when he talks about the song Soma that he doesn’t want to perform live on stage (but he does in the documentary!), we see him pushing guitar player Jeff Schroeder to madness on stage until Jeff destroys his guitar, we see him making fun with Ginger the bass player backstage, and, we see the important role of drummer Jimmy Chamberlin in hiring the new personnel & keeping Billy Corgan on the right track. We hear the fans discuss the Residency Shows and the Smashing Pumpkins in general, we see why the song Superchrist was written, and we hear the song that was never performed on stage, called Orpheus Descending, a few times. (On a sidenote, only for this song Orpheus Descending, the documentary is worthwhile seeing and listening and eventually buying when it becomes available next month. It’s a beautiful song that was never performed live, for technical reasons…)
Gent by day; Gent by night
The documentary kept all of us nailed to our chairs. We realized that especially Billy Corgan is taking a high risk in having this documentary out there in public. We see many fandom myths broken, we see the real guy, literally almost naked, with his desire to go onwards with his motto “art for art’s sake, and if you don’t want to listen, we will make you listen!” and his demanding attitude that can make people go crazy in his neighborhood. But also, we see his insecure moments, his anger when he throws his acoustic guitar to the wall a few times which makes the camera wobble, his ambivalent attitude towards the fans (priceless moment: a female fan that created Billy’s head in clay, is being treated both friendly, but also with a “frown”), his caring for the band and Jimmy’s children, his obsession for musical details and creating the right atmosphere to catch “it”, whatever the “it” is. The documentary can also be seen as another statement like “hey, I’m doing this since 1987 with the Smashing Pumpkins, if you didn’t know that, let me tell you again!”. All in all, for the fans, but also for the non-fans, it is an extremely truthful and interesting watch inside the bands’ life. A band with its front man that is trying to catch up again where they left the stage in 2000, and that is trying to give new meanings to the Smashing Pumpkins artistic concept in 2007 and onwards, meanwhile dealing with the sometimes painful past of the band with other members involved.
After the documentary ended, Jack Gulick, who, as said, produced and directed the If All Goes Wrong documentary, stepped to the mike with 1 of his team members, to answer some questions from the audience. Mister Gulick only needed 1 question to answer 5 more, he was very open and willing to talk about his professional experiences during and after the Residency Shows. Also he was not afraid to give his opinions about the band and also give many insider details about the recording (“A camera girl send me a SMS after 19 hours of working non stop with Billy, and complained she was getting hungry. We also secretly filmed things with hidden cameras, or cameras that were left somewhere backstage and seemed not to be running… Like this we didn’t stick exactly to the rules of Billy Corgan, but it was worthwhile the risk.”) and editing procedure (“Over 300 hours of material was recorded, and it takes around 2 times that amount of hours to be able to throw away the less interesting parts. Also we have still many hours of very interesting material in the archives. (smiles)”). Mister Gulick needed to be stopped by the FilmFestival organization, as he continuously remembered new details, funny anecdotes and other points of view, but not one person was leaving the room until the last words were spoken…
The only critical note I can personally think of is that a few breaks in the documentary were a little abrupt, because where Gulick made little funny bridges between some of the songs, there he scored big times. He could have done that more!
The troops in Vooruit cinema; Jack Gulick
All in all, a pretty cool experience and we were very happy to have been there. Definitely a must-see, this documentary! Oh, 1 personal frustration should be mentioned: we saw the only promo poster for If All Goes Wrong available in Gent, it was hanging in the hallway of Vooruit only. We found that out after a day long quest to find another one, but this one was already promised to 1 person of the FilmFestival organization. Grrrr!!! Anyway, enjoy its picture in this article!