Janis: Little Girl Blue


Action / Biography / Documentary / Music

Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 92%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 77%
IMDb Rating 7.4 10 4154


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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Alex Deleon 10 / 10

GREAT Doc about a great singer who died too young on the verge of salvation

Viewed at 2015 Venice Film Festival., "Janis, Little Girl Blue" by Amy Berg, With Alex Gibney, himself an outstanding documentarian acting as producer, is a Great Doc about a great American singer, Janis Joplin, who died too young on the verge of salvation.

Interviews with parents, sister, brother, surviving members of The Grateful Dead, Kris Kristofferson, and most surprising, Dick Cavett (1970). In a year of many good documentaries, this was the best of all -- a marvelous reconstruction of a tragic young life. Janis sang the blues with such conviction and such black feeling that even afro-Americans though she was black -- She died on October 4, 1970 in a Hollywood motel of an accidental heroin overdose at age 27 -- only two weeks after another rock legend, Jimi Hendrix, also at age 27. The film traces her life from humble origins in the nondescript north Texas town of Port Arthur, constant humiliation by her schoolmates because of her extreme nonconformity and relatively plain looks, up through her rise to prominence as the lead singer of the acid/rock band Big Brother and the Holding Company --one of the leading San Francisco rock groups of the mid sixties -- reaching the pinnacle when recognized as the top white blues singer of the age, her difficulties dealing with fame, her loneliness in the midst of adoring crowds, her battle with drug addiction, and finally her tragic early death on the verge of even wider fame and general acceptance by the serious music world.

Needless to say, the film is liberally spiced with clips from her amazing stage appearances, which is an added enrichment, but this is far from a mere excuse to present her songs -- far more a penetrating probe into the life of an extremely complex personality ---a true artist who became the victim of her own profound talent. Myself more or less a product of the psychedelic sixties, I left the vast Venice theater thoroughly emotionally drained and realizing I had just witnessed a remarkable film about a most remarkable life. Alex, Budapest

Reviewed by classicsoncall 8 / 10

"She liked rocking the boat." - Brother Michael Joplin about his sister Janis

The fall of 1970 delivered a terrible gut punch with the passing of two rock icons, Jimi Hendrix on 9/18, and Janis Joplin on 10/4/70. I wouldn't go so far as to say they were 'idols' of mine, but I did hold their body of work in high regard, brief as their careers might have been. This recent documentary did much to confirm what I read about Janis in a recent book of her life. She was a lonely spirit, terribly insecure about her personal appearance and lack of meaningful relationships, finding her inner soul only when she was on stage and performing for the crowds that gave her the approbation she so desperately wanted and needed.

What this documentary offered that I particularly enjoyed was musical footage I hadn't seen before, including songs Janis performed that I'd never heard before, like the opening "Tell Your Momma". The story goes on to describe Janis's close relationship with her family that she tried to maintain during the course of her rising career, even though she wanted to leave her Port Arthur, Texas roots well behind her. Much of the on screen personal dialog is handled by her sister Laura throughout the picture, with occasional clips of brother Michael.

Fans of Joplin will know that her career breakout occurred with Big Brother and the Holding Company at the Monterey Pop Festival in June of 1967. In these music documentaries, I try to stay attentive to scenes that offer a glimpse of memorabilia from the era, and I was astonished to see a ticket for the Festival during a quick scene. It's not unusual to see tickets priced at five or six dollars back in the Sixties, the Beatles' concert at Shea Stadium would have set you back a whole five bucks. But for Monterey Pop - a stage front seat went for a 'Charitable Contribution'! There's something to be said about the good old days.

In any event, Janis Joplin has been and probably will remain my favorite female vocalist for a long time. There's something electrifying about her voice and the way she sustains that bluesy soul feeling in songs like "Cry Baby", "Maybe" and the song that epitomizes her life and tragic end, "Little Girl Blue". Listen to the words, and all the pain and sorrow is there that Janis experienced, and which unfortunately led to her premature death at the age of twenty seven. Man, I wish she were still around.

Reviewed by hyoga_saint 8 / 10

A great window into wounded, soulful, legendary Janis Joplin

This touching, intimate documentary chronicles the life of legendary singer Janis Joplin, from her childhood in Port Arthur to her untimely death, as told by her surviving family members, friends, lovers, associates, peers, and by Joplin herself, through personal letters and notes.

When Don McLean talks of the "girl who sang the blues" in his seminal song American Pie, it is Janis he references. We see that smile of hers, so full of life, passion and joy. We also see the many faces of her sadness, that bewitching, heartbreaking pain that fed her powerful, inimitable voice.

This documentary takes us beyond the music, although Janis was pure music. It is the medium that drove her to like-minded spirits, to someplace she could truly feel herself at home. It led her to recognition, adulation, success. She never seems as alive as when she is on stage.

We see how she got there, her ups and downs, the loneliness, self-doubts, the need for an acceptance that may have never really come, especially from herself. Along with the music, the alcohol is also there, as are the drugs. A life lived on the edge, despair never fully going away.

I would have liked a little more time to go even more in-depth, peel the layers even more and get closer still to Janis, that little girl blue with the harrowing, unforgettable voice. It is still a wonderful, moving trip to a time, a woman, a soul who remains, in many ways, untouchable.

(+) A wonderful retrospective that will tell you who was Janis Joplin, converting newcomers and thrilling long-time fans.

(-) More time could have been spent engrossing the story, showing more of the different sides of this haunted, incredible singer.

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