10/52 JANIS: LITTLE GIRL BLUE.
I’m on a documentary kick lately. This week’s film was directed by Oscar-nominee Amy J. Berg. Berg is a critically-acclaimed journalist and filmmaker who tackles big, complex subjects with a perceptive eye. The opening of this doc was absolutely electric, just like Janis herself, and that electricity is the film’s strength. The narrative is straightforward but the content is not and I was impressed with Berg’s ability to navigate Joplin’s life in a way that felt so immediate and on-the-edge.
What’s incredible is the staggering amount of film footage, photographs and letters that Berg used to create this film. For me it’s always exciting to catch a glimpse of history being made during a time when peoples’ lives were not yet plastered all over the Internet. Janis in these videos is alive, playful, emotional, creative and totally raw. Her rough edges have not been sanded down for the camera. She was utterly herself as only she could be. The documentary is worth seeing for those tapes alone–they’re truly remarkable.
Berg also had access to recording sessions and concerts like Woodstock and Monterey. I got chills listening to Joplin experiment with two exquisite versions of “Summertime.” Janis was both timeless and completely of her time. Her voice was born out of pain, loneliness and a sense that she didn’t belong. This was her tragedy but, as with most tragedies, it was intertwined with extraordinary grace and transcendence.