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Grace Jones: Bloodlight And Bami
Sophie Fiennes here provides something feeling far different than a typical music documentary. The two hours you spend almost exclusively with Miss Jones functions like a mega-backstage-pass: you get to enjoy the concert, a meet-and-greet, a few days of one-on-one, and several meals with her family in Jamaica. If that degree of access doesn't mark this as a documentary like few others, then the razor-sharp artistry with which it is put together should seal the deal. Any viewer interested in celebrity, pop music, or the creative personality will love it. Fans of Miss Jones will be blown away. Highly Recommended.
This is the 21st Century, so you youngsters will be forgiven if you don't know who Grace Jones is. Disco diva from the '70s, cult star, reggae machine, actress (Conan the Destroyer) and androgynous icon. Grace Jones is a kind of singularity; husky-voiced and impossible, and (at least to me) unknowable; the robotic 6-foot cypher of 'Warm Leatherette' and something entirely other in her private life. Until now, that is, as director Fiennes cameras follow the persona from the stage in NYC, into the shower of the Presidential Suite, and on to her mother's humble kitchen table in Jamaica. Not necessarily in that order.
It can be a tad disconcerting to start from concert footage ('Slave to the Rhythm') and then straight on to Jones eating fish-heads with her family, but that's the way Fiennes puts things together. Other notable documentary tropes also get left by the wayside. No sit-down interviews with compatriots, no archival footage, and not much in the way of summation, either. Instead, after a performance that has the formidable singer looking fantastic into her 60s, artful intersections (concert patter laid over footage of Jones swimming in a river sans make-up, or vocal exercises backing footage of a sunset) create a stream-of-consciousness flow not unlike the creative process itself. This is most stunningly seen as a Jones song comes to light through interconnected footage of Jones fighting for studio time, all the way through to performance of the song on stage.
Jones and Fiennes have no fear, and Jones seems very real throughout. She's not afraid of her life, visiting shacks of old family friends, standing naked in the shower, yelling at subordinates when she finds her hotel hasn't been comped. All of this is here for you: the full Grace Jones experience, crafted from the real, to the super-real, to inconsequential observations, wrapped up in superior artifice like one of Jones' outlandish hats, like one of her angry, stentorian, sensuous performances, everything left on the floor for you, past, present, and future. Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami is Highly Recommended.
Bloodlight and Bami (bami is a type of Jamaican bread) comes in a 1.85:1 ratio, AVC encoded presentation from Kino Lorber. Concert footage looks the best, pretty clear, clean and sharp, with deep, rich colors and good fine details of Jones' face, makeup, costumes and head-wear. Footage from hotel rooms, studios (Sly and Robbie included) and the Jamaican countryside are less-than-archival, but not by too much, as images still enjoy rich coloring, natural skin tones, and warm light. Details are adequate in these scenes, while the fly-on-the-wall nature of the footage makes it, if not reference quality, at least much more immediate.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track sounds fantastic where it should be, and is perfectly serviceable in other areas. To wit; concert footage is awesome, with a wide dynamic range perfectly suited to Jones' over/under musical ethos. Rhythms occupy both the deep bass-end and upper registers, while Jones herself more often than not hangs out in the lower registers. Fans will not be disappointed. They might just get up and dance. When Jones is speaking with family and friends around a kitchen table, the range is muted, but everything is clear and clean and easy to understand. Also presented is a DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio track.
While there aren't many extras to be had, they are of significant heft and quality. First off is a Commentary Track with Jones, director Sophie Fiennes, and Judith Casselberry, moderated by Associate Professor of Africana Studies from Bowdoin College.Jones is voluble about her life both professional and private in this track. A Second Commentary Track with director Fiennes and critic Ian Haydn Smith goes into great detail about the production of the documentary. The Trailer and a 26-minute Q&A with Jones and Fiennes wraps things up.
Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami, like the title subject herself, is a singular product. No standard music documentary this, Bloodlight is an impromptu, unexpected, secret window into Jones' life, enveloped in concert footage specific to this film. Just as Jones onstage is vaguely mechanic and superhuman in her dead-funky songs, so is she vulnerable, real, funny and fierce throughout the rest of the documentary. Artfully constructed, lyrical, poignant and invigorating, Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami is Highly Recommended.
- Kurt Dahlke