The overwhelming emotion dripping off this documentary*** about the short-lived 60s singer Janis Joplin is one of immense sadness. It has a similar sense of ineluctable doom as Amy, Asif Kapadia’s doc.
Director Amy Berg stitches together a tapestry of Joplin’s life using archive and current interviews, particularly with her brother and sister who have clearly gained insight and wisdom in the 46 years since their little sister’s death.
The memories of life in strait-laced Port Arthur, Texas, are well used and contrasted with the hippiness of Haight Ashbury in its pomp in San Francisco whence Janis fled, only to discover the drugs which eventually killed her.
But without the family and the rather sweet, girly letters we see in her handwriting, back home to her parents in Texas, we wouldn’t understand the howls of Janis’ vocals.
This is a story of rock n roll, but also of helplessness. I don’t know who could have helped Janis, nor if she wanted any help. Outside, she eventually burned loud and bright, an incandescent star of Monterrey Pop and Woodstock and the Chelsea Hotel scene, but she did so with a deep misery in her soul. Cry, baby.