Jimi: All Is By My Side looks at the life of Jimi Hendrix, a unique performer who died at the age of 27 but whom is one of a number of artists, including The Doors with Jim Morrison, I wish I’d been able to see live… even though he passed away before I was even born.
He’s brought to the screen by André Benjamin, best known as the lead singer of Outkast, who themselves are probably best known in the UK for the song, “Hey Ya!”, which made No.3 in November 2003. Their first single, Ms Jackson, reached No.2, almost three years earlier in March 2001, but it’s the former which is still played regularly in clubs.
We first see Jimi perform on June 4th 1967, at the Saville Theatre in London, doing rather well for himself, and then the rest is told in flashback as we go back a year to 1966 in the Cheetah Club, where he’s just starting out and showing his great talents. Imogen Poots stars as groupie Linda, who becomes a friend and clearly fancies him, yet is dating (if that’s the right word) Keith Richards (Ashley Charles) from The Rolling Stones. She sees something in Hendrix, though, and helps him on the way, even partaking in imbibing whatever it was that green liquid was which they put on a sugar cube.
Being managed by Brian “Chas” Chandler (Andrew Buckley), from The Animals, it’s interesting to note that, back then, when Chas tells Hendrix that he wants to manage him and extolls his virtues, but that it’ll be three months before he can take leave from his work with The Animals, it’s not a problem in that world… whereas, today, everything’s far more instant, so if someone’s going to end up big news, it feels like they’re on Youtube one minute and then on daytime TV and X-Factor the next.
While he always has an eye for the ladies, the main love of his life is Kathy Etchingham (Hayley Atwell), but their fiery tempers and clashing personalities lead to her ending up on the wrong side of his fist on occasion, as well as whatever else he can bring to hand.
There’s interesting direction to this film, splicing in footage, movies, TV shows and pictures from back in the day, plus footage shot for the film but which is *made* to look like it was shot back in the day. And there’s also moments when, for example, Hendrix is playing at a gig while also shown talking to Linda beforehand. Even the sound is muted briefly in one scene, just to highlight the intimacy of fthe situation. And there’s also a strange filming process used which slightly stretches people’s faces on occasion. I guess it’s to evoke the period of the piece, not that anynoe had stretched faces back in the ’60s Well, perhaps Liberace.
Hendrix was clearly quite a shy and self-effacing individual – coming alive only on stage, and André Benjamin’s portrayal of the great man is certainly how I would’ve imagined him building his career. Hendrix was also quite the philosophical chap at times, such as with the observation: “When the power of love takes over the love of power, that’s when things will change.”
With a brief turn from Burn Gorman as Michael Jeffery, manager for The Animals, plus Danny McColgan, again briefly, as guitar god Eric Clapton, Jimi: All Is By My Side is entertaining and it feels a very comfortable film to get into, and is an easy watch, really making you feel like you’re watching it happen. But… and there’s a great big but coming…
The ending feels rather disappointing because, since it only shows one year in Hendrix’s life, up until the point where he heads off to the Monterey festival – in a career which went on for a further three years until his untilmely death on September 18th, 1970 – this feels rather like the first Hobbit film, where it’ll be told in three parts and, thus, the end just leaves you hanging, waiting for the continuation.
There’s also no big Hendrix songs in the film. Hey Joe was a fantastic track, even if it didn’t get in the Billboard Hot 100 during the time in which this film is set, so why don’t we even get to hear it? It doesn’t even get named! That feels like a missed opportunity, until you discover that the filmmakers’ request to use Jimi’s songs was denied by Experience Hendrix LLC (Hendrix’s estate).
And the biggest but comes in the fact that this is a falsified biography, with many fabricated scenes between Jimi and Kathy, including the allegations that he assaulted her several times, as well as the content of private conversations. In fact, writer/director John Ridley didn’t even want to talk to Kathy to get her side of the story. How do we know all this? The great lady confirmed this, herself, recently on Rich Davenport’s radio show on TotalRock.com and she also said that how can John Ridley know what took place behind closed doors?!
Not only that, but Linda Keith only ever saw Hendrix on his first day in London and then they never saw her again. She also added, “Keep your money in your pocket. It’s a waste of time. You’ll learn nothing about Jimi Hendrix from this movie.” You can here the whole of the fascinating interview at the start of this week’s show below.
And since the cover quotes Ryland Aldrich from Twitch Film stating, “One of the best musical biopics ever”, I’d hate to imagine what he thinks of the worst one!
Hence, if you watch Jimi: All Is By My Side – and my score for the film below is how this was as a film – then take it all with a pinch of salt and treat its validity as on a par with the aforementioned JRR Tolkein series.
The film is presented in the original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio and in 1080p high definition and has no defects on the print, bringing the wild ’60s clothes colourfully to life, while any aforementioned effects to make it feel like part of the ’60s are all intentional.
Soundwise, the audio is in DTS HD 5.1, but, while this is a drama, the only main use of the speakers is for the tunes within.
When it comes to the extras, the only one is a trailer (1:36). Why do new releases get such short shrift these days? I would say John Ridley could include all the interviews with Hendrix’s friends but… he never did any.
The menu features clips from the film set to a short, looped piece of backing music, and there are no subtitles which is very annoying, and when it comes to the chaptering, I feel one should come every five minutes on average. Curzon, like many other distributors, usually go for a low 12 however long the film.
Another very poor presentation, Curzon.
Running time: 119 minutes
Released: January 26th 2014
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio, DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1
Disc Format: BD50
Director: John Ridley
Producers: Danny Bramson, Anthony Burns, Jeff Culotta, Brandon Freeman, Tristan Lynch, Sean McKittrick and Nigel Thomas
Screenplay: John Ridley
Original Score: Danny Bramson and Waddy Wachtel
Jimi Hendrix: André Benjamin
Kathy Etchingham: Hayley Atwell
Linda Keith: Imogen Poots
Chas Chandler: Andrew Buckley
Michael Jeffery: Burn Gorman
Ida: Ruth Negga
Faye: Clare-Hope Ashitey
Keith Richards: Ashley Charles
Phoebe: Amy De Bhrún
Andrew Loog Oldham: Robbie Jarvis
Rita: Aoibhinn McGinnity
Eric Clapton: Danny McColgan
Paul McCartney: Ger Duffy
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.