Running Time: 103 minutes
Director: Amy J. Berg
Cast: Janis Joplin (archival footage), Cat Power (voice)
Janis: Little Girl Blue screened at the 2016 Sydney Film Festival on Friday June 10 and Wednesday June 15. For more information, please see the official Sydney Film Festival website.
As a look at one of music's most influential females, Janis: Little Girl Blue is loving and special, but at the same time raw and truthful that keeps you unaware of it's power until the very end.
Born in 1943, Janis Joplin was known for her undeniable and unique talent as a blues/rock vocalist as much as she was infamous for her wild and ruthless lifestyle that eventually cost her her life. Amy J. Berg's documentary gives great insight into Joplin's life with archival footage of Joplin herself, never before seen photographs and personal letters and interviews with those who were close to her including her brother and sister, Michael and Laura Joplin, as well as musicians she worked with and others she was in personal relationships with.
While Janis: Little Girl Blue is a must for any Janis Joplin fan, it is not only admirers that will benefit from the film. The film has the ability to create new Joplin fans which is an incredible thing to do in a film that tells her story truthfully and without any trace of hero-worship. Berg paints a picture of a woman who was vibrant and full of life, but was forever fighting her demons in ways that were incredibly self-destructive. Despite the hardships she endured, one is still able to see how she was always true to herself and an extremely strong woman in a male dominated industry. The film has plenty of new footage and information for Joplin fans and leaves those who did not know much about her feeling as though they are experts by the end of the film.
What Janis: Little Girl Blue does which is astounding, is that it doesn't make you realise how much you have come to care about Joplin until the end. While you are aware of absorbing all the information presented to you in the forms of interviews and archival footage, you are unaware that you are also in an emotional process. The fate of Joplin is so well known, but when the film abruptly turns to her death it is quite devastating. Berg makes you feel through the film that you were the one who knew Joplin well and that you haven't just been told about her.
This is in part also due to the fact that the film captures the spirit of the music scene in the late 1960's so well that the audience feels as though they are a part in Joplin's story and not just watching it on the screen. The footage of such events as the Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock are nostalgic, but very well preserved and seeing footage of Joplin performing on the big screen is just like being there. As expected, much of her music which is incorporated into the film is both for as events which she sung at and also as an instrument for greater emotion.
Janis: Little Girl Blue is an extremely rare form of documentary about a well-known personality which is able to make people feel so much without even recognising the process and creates new admirers through storytelling.