Janis: Little Girl Blue on DVD

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Robin Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Robin Clifford 
Janis: Little Girl Blue on DVD
Laura Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Laura Clifford 

Janis Joplin was a blinding flash in the music world of the 1960s, creating some of the most iconic music of that era, burning out just as quickly. Documentary filmmaker Amy Berg, through the singer’s letters to her family, friends and collaborators, tells the story of Janis’ meteoric rise and tragic fall in “Janis: Little Girl Blue.”

Janis Joplin is one of my all time favorite singers and prominent on my Dementia Play List. So, when I found that filmmaker Amy Berg was coming out with a documentary on Janis’ sadly too short life, I was thrilled. And, I was right to be!

“Janis” is a love letter to the iconic performer who left us, like other music greats Jimmy Hendrix and Jim Morrison, at the tender age of 27. Janis had a notorious reputation for drinking hard – she reportedly would down a bottle of Southern Comfort while on stage – and doing heroin “for fun.” Like everyone young, she thought that she would live and sing forever and, I am happy to say, she does live on in our hearts and minds.

Berg puts together not just Janis’ words but uses song after song, archival footage of her performances and beyond and interviews with surviving members of her first band, Big Brother and the Holding Company. “Janis: Little Girl Blue” is a lovely homage to a great singer who left us all too soon. But, her music, ah, her music will always be mine. I give it an A-.

Using the letters Janis wrote to her family back home in Port Arthur, TX, director Amy Berg fashions a portrait of the iconic blues singer that illustrates a woman looking for love.  It's heartbreaking.

As a young girl, Janis never fit in, bullied by her peers.  When she attended college in Austin, she was voted the 'ugliest man,' but she also fell in with the local music scene and, finally, found her place.

Eventually moving to San Francisco, Janis's career found its footing but her flirtation with heroin began, too.  Eventually her friends became so concerned, they sent her back home.  Through her letters to her parents and two siblings, both of whom comment frequently here, we see another side of Janis, not the rock 'n roll chick, but a little girl looking for love and acceptance.  There was a far softer side to Janis than most of us knew.

Her love life is also surprising, one man she considered a partner dismissing their alliance as 'friendly,' an American she randomly met on Ipanema Beach a potential real love match.  But he had charitable work to move onto and couldn't deal with the drugs he'd helped her kick (we see him today, sitting sadly in a bar).  Dick Cavett obviously adored her, hinting at a romantic liaison.

If "Amy" showed how fame can kill, "Janis: Little Girl Blue" explains that Janis wanted fame for the love it would bring, only to find it fleeting.

The DVD from MVD Entertainment Group includes a segment on San Francisco's Avalon and Fillmore venues, the Big Brothers performing acapella and Janis's sister and brother at her induction into the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  'Influences' features Pink, Juliette Lewis, Melissa Etheridge and others discussing Joplin's impact on rock.

Grade:  A-
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