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|Jimi: All Is by My Side|
dir-scr John Ridley
prd Danny Bramson, Anthony Burns, Jeff Culotta, Brandon Freeman, Tristan Lynch, Sean McKittrick, Nigel Thomas
with Andre Benjamin, Hayley Atwell, Imogen Poots, Andrew Buckley, Ruth Negga, Tom Dunlea, Oliver Bennett, Burn Gorman, Robbie Jarvis, Adrian Lester, Danny McColgan, Ashley Charles
release US 26.Sep.14, UK 24.Oct.14
Groovy baby: Benjamin and Poots
TORONTO FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
There's plenty of groovy style here to add a hint of resonance and insight, but the film is ill-conceived at virtually every level. It may be fascinating to explore a year in the life of a young artist just before he changed music forever, but by neglecting to secure the rights to his songs, the filmmakers miss their biggest trick.
In 1966 Jimi Hendrix (Benjamin) was a 24-year-old New York musician singing with Curtis Knight and the Squires. Then he met Keith Richards' girlfriend Linda (Poots), who decided he should be a star. She gets him a manager, former Animals bandmate Chas (Buckley), and they head to England to build a name and record an album. Over the next year, Jimi hooks up with Kathy (Atwell) and breaks into the UK pop charts with a series of hit singles. But America remains unimpressed as he prepares to perform at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival.
This window of pre-fame allows filmmaker Ridley to explore the artist's inner motivations rather than the usual biopic's focus on the trappings of fame. Hendrix uniquely fused rock and blues while creating all-new sounds with his guitar. Alas, the film only hints at his musical genius in a few brief soundalike tunes. The only track played all the way through is the Experience's audacious cover of Sgt Pepper on a London stage with the Beatles in the audience. But like other key sequences, this moment feels apocryphal.
It's also a serious issue that Benjamin is 40 years old. He gets the vibe right in a strong performance, but his eyes and demeanour are too knowing for 24. Meanwhile, the script paints Linda and Kathy as shallow women who care more about themselves than anyone around them. Atwell and Poots are watchable in these thankless roles, but they are unable to add much to the film around them, which leaves Hendrix isolated and out of context.
Ridley amps things up with inventive camerawork and offbeat sound mixing, but these gimmicks also distance viewers from the characters. Instead, Ridley pours his passion into random observations and events involving racism in both America and Britain, including a quote from Martin Luther King Jr and an appearance by "Michael X" (an uncredited Adrian Lester). So in the end, the film seems to miss its own point.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2014 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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