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Jimi: All Is By My Side

PostPosted: Fri Nov 20, 2015 2:39 am
by Adam Blake
I watched this more or less by accident on Netflix this evening. I thought it was a documentary that I'd not seen and clicked on it without knowing what to expect. I am sure it's been talked about here but, forgive me, I can't remember the conversation.

Blow me down with a feather if it isn't really very good. The gratuitous scene that caused all the fuss - Jimi fairly savagely beating up Kathy Etchingham in a nightclub - is ugly and horrible, yes, and historically untrue. Why it is there I cannot imagine. It is the only sensationalistic thing in the whole film. (The inevitable sex and drugs action being very restrained.) Perhaps the money men urged the producers to include something that would garner publicity beyond the film's guaranteed audience. Whatever, it's a shame, because it fatally mars an otherwise sensitively observed and cleverly written piece. The editing in particular is imaginative, using very recent flashback and flash forward to good effect. The actor playing Hendrix (Andre Benjamin) is excellent. He has the voice down perfectly, and if he looks a little taciturn at times, when he flashes the grin it is very convincing. Also spot-on is Chas Chandler (Andrew Buckley) and Adrian Lester performs a chilling cameo as Michael X. (This may be fictional: I am not sure whether Jimi really did buy weed off Michael X but he might have done.) This is in some ways the central scene of the movie as Michael tries to politicise Jimi - brother to brother - into putting his weight behind the emergent Black Power movement and Jimi is having none of it. ("When the power of love exceeds the love of power, that's when you'll see changes, man". Rarely, if ever, have I seen a black hippie win an argument with a black revolutionary in an Irish film. Yes, it's Irish.)

Elsewhere, there are comic turns for those of us (y'all know who y'are) who know the facts of the case. The famous "Killin' Floor" incident with Cream is beautifully portrayed, with a loving eye for period detail being almost too perfect. The hiring of Mitch and Noel is handled with humour and a light touch. Mike Jeffries is such a cartoon villain that you can't help but laugh. Hendrix's enjoyment of Chandler's Geordie brusqueness is nicely done too. One can understand why the real Kathy Etchingham objected to the film, though. She comes across as a bit dim when in reality she is a very smart lady. However, the actress playing her, Hayley Atwell, looks extraordinarily like Etchingham did in '66-'67 so it must have been strange and galling indeed for the genuine character in question.

What of the music? Needless to say, dear Janie wouldn't let them use any of Jimi's music so it all had to be pastiche - written and performed by Waddy Wachtel. It's not bad at all. Wachtel is thankfully more inclined to Jimi's gentler "Little Wing" side than his full-on proto-metal style. He's also a pretty decent blues player - though, inevitably, hardly in Jimi's league. It's good enough. The film attempts to document one of the Rich Tapestry Of Rock's most magical fairy tales: how Jimi Hendrix was whisked away from little club gigs in New York to fame and stardom in Swinging London in late '66 and, in this, it is very successful at imagining what it must have actually felt like, on a day to day basis, for the main protagonists.

The second half, where Hendrix is established and waiting to go to Monterey is less good. However it is many, many times better than I thought it would be. Give it a go if you have access to UK Netflix. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Re: Jimi: All Is By My Side

PostPosted: Fri Nov 20, 2015 12:19 pm
by john poole
Thank you Adam. The trailer persuaded me prior to the release of the film that I did not need to see it, but I'll maybe borrow the DVD sometime. But I doubt I will be pleasantly surprised, being seemingly the only person to have been bored by the Brian Wilson biopic "Love and Mercy" (everyone else seems to have loved it).

Re: Jimi: All Is By My Side

PostPosted: Fri Nov 20, 2015 12:31 pm
by Adam Blake
I didn't see "Love And Mercy", and I don't usually like rock bio-pics (the staggeringly awful Oliver Stone Jim Morrison film comes howling into view!) but this got under my guard. I have often wondered how the conversations went between Chandler and Hendrix et al in New York, the logistical problems in getting a work visa for a broke, stoned, black ragamuffin musician (it would be surely be impossible now). And it is funny, in places. The hiring of Noel Redding in particular cracked me up as it is just as I have always imagined it was. The writer is obviously a real fan. It makes the fictitious nightclub beating scene all the more mysterious. Why? Anyway. Recommended, as I say.

Re: Jimi: All Is By My Side

PostPosted: Fri Nov 20, 2015 4:08 pm
by Adam Blake
Kathy Etchingham's review. Slightly less glowing than mine...: http://www.kathyetchingham.com

Re: Jimi: All Is By My Side

PostPosted: Fri Nov 20, 2015 4:43 pm
by john poole