2015, U.S., 103 min, 2K DCP, Dir. Amy Berg, Unrated but not suitable for children
"Amy Berg's deeply sympathetic documentary on Janis Joplin gets so much right, it feels like a major act of cultural excavation." - Time Out
Since her death from heroin overdose in 1970 at age 27, Janis Joplin has been a ubiquitous presence on posters, t-shirts, classic-rock radio - and Broadway. In this documentary she reverts from an icon back into a human being. Oscar-nominated filmmaker Amy Berg excavates unseen material, interviews Joplin's confidantes and uncovers personal letters. The resulting portrait gives us fresh insight into the mighty talent behind "Piece of My Heart", "Cry Baby" and "Me and Bobby McGee". Growing up in Port Arthur, Texas, Joplin was a tomboy beatnik who was sorely out of place. "They laughed me out of class, out of town, and out of the state," she says in a clip from the Dick Cavett Show. She found a more welcoming community in San Francisco's scene of hippies and psychedelic rockers, where she joined Big Brother and The Holding Company. Through interviews with family members and fellow musicians, the film helps us better understand the different worlds she inhabited and the people who had the most influence on her. On stage and on camera, Joplin frequently projected an image of being high and happy-go-lucky. Berg's film reveals a more vulnerable character who cycled in and out of addictions and channeled her emotions into her art. Singer Cat Powers does an uncanny job of recreating Joplin's voice in readings from her letters. But the dominant voice is Joplin's own, in extraordinary performances drawn from both classic and rare footage.