Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami

Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami mixes concert footage and documentary styles to offer an unprecedented look behind the mask of the worlds most enigmatic performers

Grace Jones, the iconic, obsidian-skinned, adonis that rose to fame in the late 70’s isn’t so much back as she is in the spotlight again in the new, fascinating documentary Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami. The seemingly secretive pop-icon, model, actress, and performance artist submits to the observant lense of Director Sophie Fiennes in this new documentary that explores Jones in a way few have been given access to before to fulfilling effect.

Introducing us to Jones special brand of brazen vocals and outlandish costumes we get a feel for the power that she wields on stage. No, she isn’t the strongest singer, yet her impeccable eye for theatrics and her ravenous magnetism have made her an indelible personality who’s talent simply cannot be denied. Still, this begs the question; Who is the person behind the icon?

“…explores Jones in a way few have been given access to before to fulfilling effect.”

We get the answer, but not directly. We are shown, not told. Instead of going the interview route we are shown new, jaw-dropping live renditions of her music, her performance, her craft. Warm Leatherette, Love is the Drug, and Pull up to the Bumper, they are all here. These are paired with a tandem narrative that takes us through fly-on-the-wall moments that are at times touching and tense.

We see her savage business skills negotiating time at a recording studio. We see her having creative differences with a French T.V. producer about the dancers who are accompanying her performance. We even get to see her screaming into the phone about presidential suite accommodations and throwing the phone across the room. Then the cameras keep rolling.

After getting her time in the studio we watch as Jones passionately sings acapella into the mic as the minutes tick by. We see her concerned for the dancers she is about to fire and conceded to recording one take with them, and one without. After she loses her temper on the phone in front of a good friend, she apologizes. Then apologizes again, and keeps pacing the room attempting to get ready for travel. Jones is a savvy businesswoman who is tough as all hell and settling for nothing short of professionalism and perfection, yet staying human.

“…see Jones’ craft, her power on the stage, then we see her, her family, her business acumen.”

As if strolling through a gallery of carefully curated, disparate paired pieces Fiennes never nudges the narrative one way or another and instead lets the subject do the work. We get to see Jones’ craft, her power on the stage, then we see her, her family, her business acumen. This approach forces the viewer to become an active participant in the film they are watching, making us sit up, and make the connections between the music and the life experience that created it.

Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami paints a portrait of a young Jamaican who has risen from her traumatic, often times abusive childhood to become a force of nature, fully in control. The observational approach might not be for everyone, but then again, neither is Grace Jones.  Regardless you can’t deny talent and Fiennes delivers a front row look at a force of nature that is raw and powerful.

Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami (2018) Directed by Sophie Fiennes. Starring Grace Jones, Jean-Paul Goude, Sly & Robbie. 

7 out of 10 stars

One response to “Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami

  1. Thank goodness I had read Jones’ autobio, because the contextually-free, cinema verite approach that Finnes used here was strictly take it or leave it. I had to explain to my wife the relationships between the people onscreen and even I was shaky with the people onscreen. What really worked for me was the sense of how it is to be Grace Jones was imparted. The background on her last, superb, album “Hurricane” was fascinating. The live performance footage had me yearning for a full concert film. And let it be said that her taste in chapeaux is peerless.

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