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By Daniel Lammin
16th February 2015

The past twelve months saw so many biopics being released that it isn’t surprising a few fells through the cracks. One of those was John Ridley’s film about arguably the greatest guitarist of all time, Jimi Hendrix. Projects about Hendrix have always been on the burner, but ‘Jimi: All Is By My Side’ is the first to actually make it to the screen, and rather than following the tried-and-true formula for a music biopic that renders most dull and lifeless, this one takes a few steps to the left to be something a bit more interesting.

Rather than covering the full gamut of Hendrix’s life, the film only focuses on the year 1966, where Hendrix (André Benjamin, a.k.a. André 3000 from OutKast) moves to London and begins to develop the iconic sound that made him famous. It also takes a look at his relationships with two women, Keith Richards’ girlfriend Linda Keith (Imogen Poots), who pulls Hendrix into the spotlight, and his London girlfriend Kathy Etchingham (Hayley Atwell).


Written and directed by John Ridley, the Oscar-winning writer of ’12 Years A Slave’, ‘Jimi’ benefits from an independent spirit that prevents it from falling into cliché. By focusing on such a setting, it becomes less a biography of a famous artist and more of a snapshot of a moment in time and space, a vivid recreation of 60s counterculture in London. Its visual richness is what saves the film, the screenplay being surprisingly lacking and occasionally clunky. Far more interesting work is done on the screen itself, clever editing and subtle cinematography capturing the extraordinary detail in the production design.

Ridley wasn’t allowed to use Hendrix’s music or recordings for the film, but this doesn’t let it down at all, using music in a similar manner to how it was in ‘Nowhere Boy’ (2009), as part of the texture of the environment. This helps place the focus more on Hendrix as a character rather than as an idea. There’s also a tricky balance being played between idolising Hendrix and opening a window into his more aggressive, combustable side. What we get is more meditative than narrative, which might leave some audiences behind, but clever film tricks and techniques will take those paying attention by surprise. It’s not going to get your blood pumping, but there’s just enough going on to keep you intrigued. Benjamin is serviceable as Hendrix, his natural charisma getting him through where otherwise he would just appear lost. Poots and Atwell are both superb, proving further that these are two actors we should be paying far more attention to.

By focusing on such a setting, it becomes less a biography of a famous artist and more of a snapshot of a moment in time and space.

‘Jimi: All Is By My Side’ isn’t the rousing Hendrix biopic everyone has been waiting for, but that shouldn’t deter those interested in the man and his music. The film takes visual and narrative risks with a relatively simple story, and even where the screenplay and the lead performance never hit their stride, it shines with its celebration of an important cultural moment before this young musician become one of the greatest musical legends.

Madman’s release of ‘Jimi’ offers a subtle 1080p 2.35:1 transfer that strongly evokes the textures and senses of the 60s. Detail is nice and clear, but never so much as to make the film appear too modern. Ridley intercuts the filmed footage with documentary footage, and this works seamlessly with the muted and washed-out colours. We also get a DTS-MD MA 5.1 track that handles the clever and tricky sound design beautifully. Much of the film is designed where dialogue isn’t the foreground, and the track maintains that. ‘Jimi’ is as interesting an aural experience as it is a visual one, and the audio on this Blu-ray release retains this.

The only feature offered on this disc is the theatrical trailer. The U.S. release has a smidgen more material, but it doesn’t look like we’re missing much not having it here.

RELEASE DATE: 18/02/2015
RUN TIME: 1h 58m
CAST: Andre Benjamin (andre 3000)
Imogen Poots
Hayley Atwell
PRODUCERS: Danny Bramson
Anthony Burns
Jeff Culotta
Brandon Freeman
Tristan Lynch
Sean McKittrick
Nigel Thomas
SCORE: Danny Bramson & Waddy Wachtel
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