What I’m Watching Now

11021-212a Janis Joplin in the late 1960s. *** USA ONLY *** ** HIGHER RATES APPLY ** © Daniel Kramer / Camera Press / Retna Ltd.

Another in the series. So I took a break from various reading chores to watch Janis: Little Girl Blue. This documentary about the wild woman of rock ‘n’ roll mostly succeeds. It has terrific footage of her concerts and interviews with fellow musicians, former lovers (male and female), friends and business associates, as well as a couple of family members. We see her hometown of Port Arthur, Texas, where the child of the middle class felt rejected and bullied. We travel with her to Austin and then to San Francisco where her talent melded with “right place, right time,” She shows up on Dick Cavett’s show. His interview is one of the more enlightening.

The music does its star turn with all the emotion and power that Janis sent to her fans and that she says she received back ten-fold.

The film doesn’t skirt, nor glamourize, her heroin abuse. It does show how a genius with everything to lose could throw it away because she had to “take the edge off” the pain of living.

The producers/director tie the pieces of her life together with “the road.” In this case it’s train tracks that curve through a verdant and tranquil landscape. These chapter breaks balance the mania of the woman who hollered, “Take another little piece of my heart.” The only song missing is the funny, cynical “Mercedes Benz.” It was her swan song.

The problems with Janis are minimal but detract from the beat to beat the film. At various points, Janis’s letters to her parents are read in voiceover. Some of the images go by so fast, it’s impossible to glean anything about her handwriting. Other times the pace of reading and letters forces a lag in the action, which otherwise has the pacing of a great blues song.

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