mon 30/03/2020

DVD: Janis – Little Girl Blue | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Janis – Little Girl Blue

DVD: Janis – Little Girl Blue

From Texas über-normal to San Francisco rock chick: at last the Janis Joplin story

She knew how to rock: Janis Joplin

The Janis Joplin bio-doc has been a long time coming. The rock star’s family were notoriously cautious about exposure: who wouldn’t be, with a career so tragic and brief?

The Janis Joplin bio-doc has been a long time coming. The rock star’s family were notoriously cautious about exposure: who wouldn’t be, with a career so tragic and brief?

As it happens, their collaboration made possible the inclusion of the rock star’s poignant letters home, which the documentary uses to great effect throughout, revealing something of the singer’s inner life and vulnerability, in contrast with her careful self-presentation as a mixture of bad girl, sex bomb and Etta James impersonator.

Some of her inner torment may have been caused by a continuing and profound sense of insecurityThe documentary tells the story efficiently: there is a wealth of live performance archive, D. A. Pennebaker’s excellent footage from a studio session and other touring and backstage material. There are evocative and sometimes very moving interviews with many of the people who played a role in her life.

Exceptional talent is never easy to explain: Janis came from a very conventional Texas background, and everything she did can be seen as an almost desperate attempt to free herself from the shackles of well-meaning normality. And yet, there is evidence throughout, not least in the letters home – which keep coming – that she never managed to uproot herself completely, and that some of her inner torment may have been caused by a continuing and profound sense of insecurity. Perhaps the most stirring contribution comes from David Niehaus, the free spirit with whom she travelled in Brazil towards the end of her brief life, and who probably offered more unconditional love than anyone else she met.

As many feature-length documentaries, the film is too long, and the editing (a revealing three separate names on the credits) at once predictable and sloppy as well as unimaginative.  It’s as if the film-makers had been infected by the chaos that seemed to constantly threaten the singer’s life. But the sheer force of the material and Janis’s remarkable stage presence mostly makes up for these formal inadequacies.  The woman sure knew how to rock!

 

Exceptional talent is never easy to explain: Janis came from a very conventional Texas background

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters