Finding Joseph I
directed by James Lathos
starring Paul H. R. Hudson
MVD Visual, Small Axe, Girafffe Productions
Sure, there’s a load of mosh pit punk rock shows here, but this movie really focuses on the mental illness that drove and nearly destroyed Paul “PR” Hudson, founder of Bad Brains. There weren’t that many black punkers; Fishbone is the only other one that comes to mind without searching, but this act was stellar. Bad Brains came out of DC, a city on the edge of the punk movement but Hudson and his band put out 4 hard to beat albums before illness and the typical band dynamics took the edge off their freshness.
There’s an elevated level of abandon in thrash punk; you have to be willing to throw yourself off the stage onto metal studded fans and concrete littered with broken glass. Those who excel at these performances often fight inner daemons, and HR nearly let his beat him. We follow the story of the band from friends and fans and lovers and agents, and its tragedy but not a hopeless one. We see live shows that still excite, interviews that tend to the unearthly, and repeatedly see the back-flip Hudson used to punctuate the end of songs.
There’s more medicine than music in this doc, but it’s an effective tour of one man’s slide and fall that does end on an upbeat note: Lori Carnes marries him in 2012 and gets him on some meds that may not make him whole, but do make him a better husband. Live fast and burn out early is such a common story, but here we end on a positive note. We may never see the return of HR Hudson and the back flip, but there are plenty of good memories left in the bank.