“Fan interviews are an integral part of the film, and without descriptions attached to each person interviewed, it would at times be impossible to differentiate the fans from the musicians.”
The documentary In Heaven There Is No Beer, chronicles the rise and fall of LA’s Kiss or Kill music scene. Director Dave Palamaro (whose interview can be found by clicking here), once a member of a Kiss or Kill band, documents the need for creating the scene, the highlights of getting a talented and passionate group of artists together, and the eventual demise of Kiss or Kill. His insight is vividly displayed through lively interviews and lots of great music.
While the overall subject of Kiss or Kill takes center stage, Palamaro makes it clear early in the film that the scene was comprised of a variety of unique individuals. Each segment of the film tells a crucial story that informs the audience what exactly made Kiss or Kill so special. The heart of the film is the music and the people who made the music, and the interviews featured throughout help those aspects shine.
There is one segment of the film wholly devoted to the Kiss or Kill bands. This segment should delight both fans of the music scene along with those less familiar with Kiss or Kill. It is a great introduction to each band, and simultaneously presents them as parts of a community and as their own unique presence. It was exciting to hear music samplings from each group, and see members of each band talk about their own work and the work of other Kiss or Kill groups.
Because so many of the film’s interviews are with members and fans of the Kiss or Kill scene, there is a strong element of pathos throughout. When people discuss the rise of Kiss or Kill, the excitement is palpable. When the difficulties that inevitably arose from the growing success of the scene and its artists were discussed, it was easy to feel the sadness and disappointment that some of the interviewed artists and fans felt. The interviews felt very natural, not sterile.
Part of the reason for the film’s success seems to lie in the director’s connection to the scene. Rather than an outside party deciding to create a film on an interesting subject, Dave Palamaro started documenting a music scene that was a major part of his life. His investment in the scene created a more invested and honest portrayal of Kiss or Kill. But the film also doesn’t get overly emotional or sappy. Energetic music, expressive personalities and a sense of fun often permeate the film, never letting the sections dealing with the decline feel cumbersome, while also not devaluing the music scene’s demise.
It is likely that Palamaro’s connection to the subject also allowed for Kiss or Kill’s fans to be a major part of the film. Fan interviews are an integral part of the film, and without descriptions attached to each person interviewed, it would at times be impossible to differentiate the fans from the musicians. The devotion of fans is featured heavily in the film, and the devotion of the musicians to the fans is also explored, creating a sense of community that was a major part of the scene.
For anyone interested in music, this is a must-see documentary. Even if the musical stylings found at Kiss or Kill are not up your alley, the documentary offers a depth that allows plenty to offer for everyone. There is a lot of heart throughout the film, and it is an intriguing and entertaining documentary all the way through the closing credits.
Review by Entertainment Writer and Film Critic, Bethany Rose