Before heading to the theater, check in with Cineast for previews of the newest movies. This week, Cineast looks at Jimi: All Is by My Side, The Song and Believe Me.
Jimi: All Is By My Side
OutKast’s André Benjamin takes on the part of Jimi Hendrix in this long-awaited biopic about the legendary guitarist. Jimi: All Is By My Side explores 1966-67, an eventful year in the life of Hendrix, as he goes from being a little-known sideman for various R&B acts in Greenwich Village to being the jaw-dropping, guitar-destroying wild man of the Monterey Pop Festival. In between, Hendrix travels to England where he gets discovered by Keith Richard’s girlfriend, gets taken up by manager Chas Chandler (the bassist for the Animals), forms the Jimi Hendrix Experience, starts dressing like a psychedelic mystic, and becomes the toast of Mayfair. The role of Hendrix seems tailor-made for André Benjamin, who looks an awful lot like Hendrix, and Benjamin closely replicates Hendrix’s gymnastic guitar moves and distinctive speaking voice. Naturally, the soundtrack is drawn entirely from Hendrix’s own phenomenal playing, which has often been imitated but never duplicated. If it’s successful, the film may generate yet another in the periodic resurgences of interest in Hendrix, who has now been dead for close to 45 years.
The Song clearly aims to aggregate audiences for romantic dramas, Christian films, and films about country music. In the process, it plays into long-standing false dichotomies: the superiority of clean, rural living to living in the big, bad city; the supposed “naturalness” of acoustic country music as opposed to other supposedly compromised forms; the natural, superior morality of blonde country girls to brunette, tattooed women who work in the dirty professional music business. A country singer settles down with a beautiful blonde vineyard owner and things are perfect. The, he writes a hit song (“The Song”), and he’s drawn away from the simple, pure life into the urban, temptation-filled world of music replete with tattooed vixens. Admittedly, these clichés have a long precedent—the worship of pastoral beauty was certainly present in the Bible, and this film is explicitly based on the biblical Song of Solomon, which entwines the themes of human love and untrammelled nature to emphasize God’s love for the world. Still, this thudding rehearsal of such timeworn themes might paradoxically leave people rooting for the dirty city, the tattooed vixen, and the amplified world of naughty
We’ve all heard of unethical charities that take advantage of altruism in order to enrich themselves. The nonprofit world is just as sleazy as the for-profit world, as the NFL has made abundantly clear. In Believe Me, a college senior finds himself with a surprise tuition bill and, with some friends, devises a con that proceeds to fleece well-meaning churchgoers. A dark comedy designed to raise eyebrows, and maybe put the fear of God into unworthy charities.