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July 20, 2014 | by  | in Arts Film |
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Jimi: All Is By My Side [Review]

Jimi: All Is By My Side featured documentary in the NZIFF
2.5 stars

It starts with Jimi Hendrix playing to an empty bar. In this bar is the girlfriend of Keith Richards: Linda Keith. She befriends Jimi Hendrix, simultaneously introducing him to the music industry and LSD. The 1960s are here and aren’t they just groovy. Recent films such as Howl, On the Road, Nowhere Boy, Factory Girl and countless others all offer glamorous appropriations of ‘50s and ‘60s artistic counterculture – appropriations which inspire youths to rebel, and for their middle-aged parents to look back on their adolescence with fondness.

These are the disturbingly clichéd narrative expectations that the viewer is rendered with after the opening scenes of John Ridley’s Jimi: All Is By My Side. While André 3000’s performance as Hendrix was cool, the rest of feature was definitely not “Ice Cold”. All Is By My Side details Hendrix’s rise to fame from his early days as a sideman in Clarksville, Tennessee, to his early UK success which climaxed with his performance of ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ at the Saville Theatre (only three days after the song was released, while The Beatles were in attendance), and his departure to tour the US and play at the Monterey Pop Festival. We are given a plot – which is entertaining and engaging – but there is a lack of substance. Ridley was not given permission to reproduce any of Hendrix’s original material. In a fit of rage, Hendrix assaults his ginger girlfriend with a payphone, and then claims to have written ‘Red House’ as an apology – yet we are never given a performance.

Throughout All Is By My Side, Hendrix is obsessed with Bob Dylan – he spends his last dollar on the LP Blonde on Blonde, and later recruits bassist Noel Redding because he had the same hair as Dylan. Thus, for appropriate comparison as far as biographical counterculture films go, Todd Haynes’ I’m Not There reigns supreme. His multifaceted representation of Dylan, ranging from a negro child, an elderly outlaw and a washed-up woman, provide supreme artistic and narrative satisfaction. Yet this satisfaction is not given through Ridley’s representation of Hendrix. There is no depth, no character development, and most importantly, no songs by the man himself. Hendrix’s prophesying is hardly awe-inspiring – “When the power of love takes over the love of power, that’s when the world will change.”

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