The Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor got a visit from a boatload (literally) of people from Greenport Sunday afternoon for the debut of a documentary entitled a film that chronicles the life of an immensely talented and good-hearted Greenport guitarist who came from less than zero, rose to a certain level of local notoriety amongst metal heads in the 1980s but never seemed capable of getting his life together.
The movie, part of the Hamptons Take 2 Documentary Festival, mixes in footage from drunken jam sessions in a barn in the mid-1980s to recent interviews with Harry Biechele and those in the village who know him.
Always awkward, Biechele was tormented by classmates, became an alcoholic at an early age and struggled with addiction for most of his life. He knew his father only for two weeks before his father violently took his own life, and his mother partied just as hard as Harry did as a teenager, right alongside her son and all his friends.
Harry says in the film that without a guitar, he’s “useless.”
“Losing a guitar is definitely worse than losing a girlfriend,” Harry tells filmmaker Jim Morrison in the movie, sitting in a tent where he’d been living for a time.
Biechele was one of the Greenporters in the audience, watching goodnaturedly as his life story unfolded on the big screen in front of all of his peers. He said after the film that the viewing experience was “scary,” but that he loved watching all the early music footage, and even though his existence was rough, he said he had a blast living through it.
“Looking back, those were some damn good times,” he said.
Arts writer and film critic Andrew Botsford interviewed Morrison on stage after the screening, calling “Harry Hellfire,” Morrison’s first full-length film, an “incredible first venture.”
“It’s a courageous act by everyone who made this film, to have opened themselves up like this,” Botsford said.
Morrison put himself into “Harry Hellfire” quite a bit, saying that he tried to keep himself out, but that as one who grew up with Harry and remains friends with him and several players in the film, there was no way around the “self-interviews,” he said. He also included a section of the film that revealed a falling out between himself and Harry during production.
“We’re real, you know, we’re friends,” Morrison said. “It’s how it is — sweet and sour.”
Though some parts of his life story might have been harder than others to watch — his friend kicking him out of a room he’d been renting, for example — Biechele said that “Harry Hellfire” inspired him, and he’s ready to play in a band again.
“There’s been ups and downs but you know, we move beyond all that,” he said. “I have so much new material I’m working on right now, and I’m ready to rock the planet again.”
Let Patch save you time. Get great local stories like this delivered right to your inbox or smartphone every day with our free newsletter. Simple, fast sign-up here.