Out this week is Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami. The documentary is a mix of tales from her Jamaican background and footage of her on stage and in the studio. Not to mention scenes from hotels, cars and Grace on the phone arguing with Sly n Robbie.
Grace has three distinct ways of speaking… In her native Jamaican English, in a proper English accent and on occasion in fluent French. The most disconcerting is when she is talking with musicians like Sly or Robbie like this… “Me think, me want, me is human ” in an exaggerated childish voice. And this is just the beginning.
Grace Jones was born in Spanish Town, Jamaica in 1948. She spent her early years in Jamaica before moving with her parents to New York in 1961. Subsequently she became a fashion model in NY and Paris, before she launched a highly successful singing career with songs like La Vie En Rose, Pull Up To The Bumper and Love Is The Drug. An extremely androgynous character, she was a blend of fierce and romantic, an avant-garde enfant terrible for the seventies and eighties.
She once battered British host Russell Harty around the head for turning his back on her on his live TV chat show.
So, who is Grace Jones? Delving into her past in Jamaica, while revisiting Paris and her greatest hits, Miss Grace comes to life as a fundamentally tough woman from a poor background, who earned her stripes, along with her sibling Noel, by childhood beatings from Mas P (her Grandmother Pearl’s second husband, a strict religious disciplinarian).
An illuminating part of the documentary is when Grace reveals how she went to an analyst who told her that she was manifesting Mas P on stage. She says “The audience were sometimes terrified of me, and I was acting out this guy all the time…”
With appearances by her mother, brother, cousins, her son Paulo and ex-partner Jean Paul Goude, Grace Jones (along with her different accents) appears as two distinct people off stage. One is a selfish, contrary, air-sucking superstar, and the other is a genial, unadorned grown up child, sportingly reliving her traumatic past.
A visit to “Miss Myrtle” who is a childhood neighbour of Grace’s is a particular highlight of the film. This elderly little lady, whose bandeau top hardly holds up her sagging breasts, is remembered by Grace as a woman who sashayed along the road, swinging her arm like a queen.
Another fun moment is when Grace eats breakfast alone in a posh Parisian hotel, seen only in the company of a young innocent looking waiter. Her fur coat opens to reveal …nothing on underneath.
The musical highlight (apart from a La Vie En Rose rehearsal on French TV) is undoubtedly Love Is The Drug just at the end.
But there is plenty here to engage Grace Jones fans, just don’t expect too much concrete detail or facts. Directed by Sophie Fiennes, Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami is a bit of a mishmash.