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Janis: Little Girl Blue [DVD]
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Janis Joplin is one of the most revered and iconic rock & roll singers of all time, a tragic and misunderstood figure who thrilled millions of listeners and blazed new creative trails before her death in 1971 at age 27. With Janis: Little Girl Blue, Oscar-nominated director Amy Berg (Deliver Us from Evil, West of Memphis) examines Joplin s story in depth for the first time on film, presenting an intimate and insightful portrait of a complicated, driven, often beleaguered artist.
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The film tells it as it was. Janis was and remains phenomenal. There was and is nobody like her. Amazing concert performances, songs and interviews. The CD soundtrack is also essential. Five stars are insufficient.
The footage covering her upbringing is particularly fascinating, depicting her 'outsider’ status in relation to schooldays (being the target of bullying), her progressive (radical) political views and her obvious affection for family and wish to be loved and recognised for something. We get sections of Janis’ influences, unsurprisingly including the likes of Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin and Billie Holiday, plus an intriguing thread around her interviews (and potential relationship) with TV talkshow host, Dick Cavett. In the end, though, one is left with the inevitable questions as to why apparently self-destructive courses (with their inevitable cocktails of hard drugs and alcohol) lead to the demise of some and not others. Highly moving and recommended.
however , I found I was still none the wiser as to her
real driving force . I also felt that the substance intake
was largely glossed over .
At this point I have to admit to not being partial to her form of music ,
but I feel she was a product of being in the right place at the right time .
I also wonder at the fame attributed to those class artists who passed before their time .
I saw judy collins at the barbican , didnt need a mike , was pitch perfect , however largely
unappreciated , due to not having an untimely death .
jj rest in peace .
She felt a need to distinguish and express herself and migrated to San Francisco, where she joined Big Brother and the Holding Company, a psychedelic rock group whose groovy sound perfectly showcased her soulful, unique voice. She wanted to integrate herself into their sound. She didn’t just sing a song, she gave herself 100%, heart and soul. Their recording “ Piece of my Heart” became legendary. She sang and became famous at the Monterey Pop Festival. She wore her hair long and clothing loose, embodying the rebelliousness of the counter-culture life-style. She outgrew her band and formed her own bands, Kozmic Blues Band the Full Tilt Boogie Band.
She gave magnetic performances, but fuelled by drugs and alcohol, to which she was addicted.She played Woodstock, performing songs like “Work Me, Lord” and “Ball and Chain.” When she relaxed a little, especially when she went to Brazil, she fell in love, but her boyfriend wasn’t able to take the heroin addiction and left. She attempted to kick the habit and did so for a while. But she became increasingly forlorn when she realized her band mates had families to go back to, while she was alone. There are many excerpts of her in conversation with her band-mates or in sessions. She is also shown having taken an acid-laced drink unknowingly, while off heroin.
The film shows her wanting to make it big abroad and she had a great sold-out concert at the Royal Albert Hall. What drove her was the love and fan worship she received from the audience. Beneath the gritty, storming performances the film portrays the little girl lost, wanting love and stability. However, love don’t come easy. She paid the price for her legacy, her voice was her only transcendence. She fell back on heroin and died of a drug-overdose, being one of the celebrity casualties along with Brian Jones and Jimmy Hendrix of rock’n’roll.
Amy Berg’s superb, poignant documentary captures the awkward individual beneath the feminist icon, caught up in the rock’n’roll patriarchy. Fellow southerner Cat Power gives voice to Joplin’s innermost thoughts via her letters, at once both brash and cripplingly lonely, while archive performance footage reminds us how exquisite her molasses-strained through wire-wool delivery could be. The film allows us to engage with her as a human being first and a musical icon second. Berg grounds her film in Joplin’s emotional realm without allowing us to see the doom ahead. Her brilliance was born from her own pathological inability to discern it.
There are interviews with friends, lovers and family. There is plenty of archive footage but only snippets of songs which includes the Monterey Pop appearance. Many songs are featured but the real reason here is to tell her story and her battles with drugs and alcohol and her of love of the blues, which she could sing so beautifully that even watching this I felt the hairs on the back of my neck rising.
It is amazing how she managed to put so much emotion and passion into her music and it seems the people around it saw that in her too. Her firmament burnt for too short a time but while it did so it was also one of the brightest and most loved. I truly think this is a great tribute to Janis Joplin – not just the star but the person – highly recommended.
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