GRACE JONES: BLOODLIGHT AND BAMI (120 NR)
Larger than life, wild, scary and androgynous – Grace Jones plays all these parts. Yet here we also discover her as a lover, daughter, mother, sister and even grandmother, as she submits herself to our gaze and allows us to understand what constitutes her mask.
Director: Sophie Fiennes
Stars: Grace Jones, Jean-Paul Goude, Sly & Robbie
Shot over five years, Sophie Fiennes’ fly-on-the-wall documentary of the pop-culture icon-cum-provocateur Grace Jones is a fascinating look at the life of a true original.
While, at the end, you’ll still be thinking she’s something of a riddle wrapped inside an enigma, Bloodlight and Bami certainly provides plenty of insight and offers a look at the many sides of this multi-faceted, multi-talented performer.
From her birthplace in Spanish Town, St Catherine – Jamaica, to the bright lights of New York and Paris, Bloodlight showcases Jones’ ability to adapt to any situation.
Her accents and moods regularly shift as we see her banter with her brothers (her recollections of her tomboy childhood provide some of the film’s funniest and heartwrenching moments), bare her self-doubts and hold her corner during arguments with producers and stage managers who don’t share “her vision”.
One particular sequence stands out. A a French TV show invites Jones on to perform her disco version of La Vie En Rose. Recruiting a cadre of young dancers, they’ve set up what they believe to be a perfect Paris nightclub-esque tableaux, but Jones isn’t having any of it.
“It’s bizarre, it makes me feel like a brothel madame,” Jones intones, while Fiennes focuses on the surreal sight of a young French family captivated by the seemingly seedy scene playing out in front of them.
As Bloodlight also ably demonstrates, it’s the stage where Jones feels most at home and in control. Fiennes sets up a couple of bespoke set pieces for her classic songs like Slave to the Rhythm and Love is a Drug and her power to captivate is palpable, as she prowls the stage and growls out the lyrics. “I can still perform and hold the audience’s attention even if the lights go out and the power fails,” she snaps later.
However, such bravado certainly isn’t a constant and Fiennes ability to capture Jones’ at more intimate moments shouldn’t be underestimated. She reveals how acting classes (Jones famously played a villain in both a Conan and a Bond movie) brought out her violent side, details her sometimes abusive childhood (“If we were caught watching TV we were beaten for a week”) and how for her the stage is both a lonely place and a fascinating one. Fiennes also reveals her to be a wicked jacks player, a tennis obsessive and where her love of elaborate headgear comes from.
Certainly not a conventional music documentary (Jones pretty much is the documentary’s sole voice), Bloodlight is an entertaining, engaging and somewhat enlightening look at a complicated woman.
If you come away with anything, it will be a greater appreciation of her chameleon-esque skills and her pure humanity.
– JAMES CROOT, Stuff