Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Amazing Grace Jones Caught on Film in "Bloodlight and Bami"

Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami, currently in theaters and on Amazon Prime, captures the extraordinary artist that Jones is. No staid talking head-style documentary, this film is a visual statement worthy of its inspiration.

Filmmaker Sophie Finnes followed Jones for a decade, to Jamaica visiting family, on tour in Paris and New York, and to the recording studio for her 2008 album Hurricane. Concert footage of Jones's always-remarkable performances illuminate her story, particularly her poignant autobiographical lyrics.

Jones's grand-stepfather Mas P beat Grace and her brothers so thoroughly that he had different sized belts for the purpose hanging on the wall, each of which he had a name for. Her stage persona acts out the rage her childhood bred in her:

This is a plate, this is a cup 
This is a story I didn't make up 
This is a girl lost in the woods 
Some kind of wagon from some other 'hood

This is the paper 

This is the pen 
This is my weapon 
A means to an end

"She don't want to come to church. She have to have her own way to go, on stage and showing herself," Mas P told a neighbor as Grace began her career. In one scene Jones's brother, a bishop, brings up her mother Grace up to sing to the congregation, wearing a perfect hat that her namesake daughter has brought her.

One of the many stupendous Philip Treacy hats in the film—worn by Jones as only she can—blows up a nun's coronet for her song "I'm Wicked" (pictured). "Mother would have danced this hat off already," she tells her audience before launching into an absolutely amazing "Amazing Grace." Roxy Music's "Love is the Drug" is another eye-popping power performance in the film.

In one scene, Grace prepares for a concert while reminiscing about her dance queen days. "People just wanted to dance, you know, and they just were doing hallucinogenics and wanted to dance. It was like—like going to church. I mean, serious, disco was like going to church."

She appears to be smoking a joint backstage in a scene with some white dude wearing a DARE T-shirt, and someone suggests she might drink a bottle of Cristal champagne and smoke a big joint as she dies. "I'm not sure about the joint," she laughs. "I might do acid or Ecstasy....Timothy Leary can come and hold my hand while I'm dying."*

In her 2015 book I'll Never Write My Memoirs, Jones writes, "Jamaican people shouldn't do cocaine. They should stick to marijuana. Certain things grow in certain places for a reason....The Jamaicans should stay laid-back, have a joint, and chill. That's why God lets marijuana grow so freely there....It suits the locals' temperaments, as something that seemed imbued with spiritual, medicinal, and religious properties."

Girl knows her drugs. "What counts is when I die, I want to die happy," she says. Anyone who can shimmy like that at 70 is doing something right.

*I confirmed with Leary's archivist Michael Horowitz that he and Grace were "great friends. She visited his house often in Beverly Hills and they went to discos together. I think she is the one Tim had in mind when he said he was going to have his head removed after he died and kept 'alive' to be transplanted onto the body of a tall Black woman when such things are possible."

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