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SXSW Movie Review: Andre Benjamin stars as legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix

Jimi All Is By My Side


Something's missing from the new Jimi Hendrix biopic "Jimi: All Is By My Side," which recently made its U.S. premiere at SXSW in Austin, Texas.

Director John Ridley
Photo by Michael Buckner

With "Jimi: All Is By My Side," director John Ridley ("12 Years A Slave") has created an experimental biopic that's missing one essential aspect of the legendary guitarist -- his actual music.

As with preceding biopic producers that had tried to make Hendrix biopics, Ridley was unable to convince the Hendrix estate to grant the rights to the late musician’s music for use in his film.

Andre Benjamin portrays Jimi Hendrix in the film, which takes place during the two year period before Hendrix became a rock icon at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival where he lit his guitar on fire.

Ridley utilizes a loose story structure and experimental indie film style that offers up various snippets showing us Hendrix's early days as a backing guitarist for headliners in New York to his meeting Linda Keith, later arrival in England, meeting with Chas Chandler, forming his band and subsequent rise to stardom while shagging several different groupie girlfriends.

Forced to make do without Hendrix's seminal music, Ridley finds performance scenes to depict in the film where Hendrix covers other famous musicians including playing "Sgt. Pepper's Lonley Hearts Club Band" in front of The Beatles at a live show, as well as upstaging Eric Clapton with a scorching performance of a Muddy Waters song.

However, the film's fascination with depicting Hendrix's tumultuous relationship with women rather than his music may not appeal to many of his fans.

Ridley also does a rather poor job of showing us Hendrix's relationship with family members, including his father, who is only heard but not seen during a long-distance phone call.

Also, Hendrix's band members from The Experience (backing vocalist Noel Redding, and drummer Mitch Mitchell) are mostly in the background as nothing more than glorified extras to fill-in the storyline.

Granted, Ridley's decisions were no doubt dictated by the lack of access to the Hendrix music rights, but his choices are nevertheless rather bland to begin with.

For those of you who are interested in seeing Andre Benjamin portraying Hendrix as a guy sitting around in dark nightclubs and arguing with his women in the bedroom or their apartments then this is your movie.

But if you prefer to see and hear about Jimi Hendrix life, it might be worth your time to watch the family authorized project "Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train A Comin’" a feature-length PBS American Masters documentary.

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