KING LOSER, a doco by ANDREW MOORE and CUSHLA DILLON

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KING LOSER, a doco by ANDREW MOORE and CUSHLA DILLON

Those who missed the short, frantic and furious flight of Auckland band King Loser (1992-1997) missed attitude, three albums, some singles, style, cacophony, arrogant confidence, changing line-ups and a rich cult following.

And frequently great rock'n'roll noise on the cusp of violent chaos.

Almost two decades after the breakup, fan and filmmaker Andrew Moore was on hand to film the band when they reformed for the 2016 Others Way festival and the subsequent three week tour: “Daunting for all the wrong reasons,” says co-founder Chris Heazelwood.

42276202_353953168678755_8881131364624105472_n__1_Singer Celia Mancini's health – physical and mental – was compromised (that's perhaps the most charitable characterisation).

But the tour proceeded despite bickering -- Heazelwood and Mancini had briefly been a couple in the band's heyday – and Mancini's drinking and self-medicating for the pain sustained in an accident.

It was a tour which became increasingly difficult -- Mancini almost a no-show at a Wellington gig – and descended into the cliches of the lifestyle, as had happened before.

Directors Moore and Dillon grappled with making this doco for years: trying for funding, finding historic footage of pre-KL bands and the scenes in Christchurch and Auckland, contemporary interviews with the many band members and Mancini's father.

The beautiful, charismatic and opinionated Mancini – born Celia Patel to a middle-class family in Auckland (father a doctor, five siblings) – was a child of rock'n'roll, skateboard culture and was making home movies with the family video. She graduated into student radio, playing in bands (she says 41 of them, including Axel Grinders and Stepford 5) and embracing the dissolute end of the rock'n'roll spectrum.

loserMany attest to Mancini's difficult nature but also to her humour and generosity, and the collective talent of Heazelwood and Mancini when corralled was something special and rare.

But the chemistry was also explosive and if not always self-destructive something very close to it.

Their unique blend of surf-rock, alt.rock and complex interweave of guitars meant they quickly hooked up with small international indie labels and then Flying Nun. Uncategorisable but when it gelled something special and rare.

But too often it didn't and they were dropped by Flying Nun. Despite the self-mythologising it was all over. 

4edc5e193d68850f3ef135822031cf64Mancini – diagnosed as bi-polar – was an unstoppable force of self-belief and the need for attention, so peeled off into her Slightly-Delic television show.

The doco manages to capture the haphazard nature of what almost passed as a rock'n'roll career but was felled by pharmaceuticals, mental issues (Heazelwood lived under a bridge for a while) and arguments.

There is a lot "what might have been" in these 90 minutes which celebrates the music and chaos but also leaves the uncomfortable feeling of observing the sadness of Celia' Mancini's crazy and frequently self-destructive life which involved accidents, a prison term, homelessness and, yes . . . some thrilling rock'n'roll.

But the latter came at a price for all concerned.

“I'm a loser for life. I'm not going to win and I don't want to,” Mancini told Moore in 2016.

She died in September 2017.

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You can rent the King Loser documentary from ArtVideo on demand here

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