Documentary Tom Duggins

Film Review: Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami


★★★★★

Sophie Fiennes returns with yet another fascinating character study, blending slick concert footage with impromptu, intimate filming of musician and fashion icon Grace Jones as she darts between America, Europe and Jamaica – a force of vitality and glamour.

Because there is no one else quite like Grace Jones, it stands to reason that Sophie Fiennes’s documentary on the musician, actor and fashion icon – Bloodlight and Bami – is a gloriously distinctive piece of work. An enthralling, vital film which gives the same attention to Jones’s family life and personal history that it gives to her work in the studio and on stage. The result is a remarkably candid portrait of an outspoken and charismatic star who carries the same energy and presence into her life when offstage that she offers up to her devoted concert-goers.

The camera follows her from Los Angeles to New York, to Paris and to Jamaica, where she spends time with family and reminisces about her past. Her personality fills up the screen, not least in the impactful concert footage (which is shot direct, as if we were stood a few metres before the stage), but also in those back stage moments where Jones hardly hesitates to air her thoughts and feelings. We see her upbraid session musicians and scold business associates, and yet retain a level of charm whilst doing so. She has a wine or champagne glass in hand more often than not. (As one family member remarks: the Joneses seem to behave younger and younger the older they get).

In one remarkable scene, she complains to a male producer that the choreography for a French television programme has been set up so that she resembles a madam in a brothel parading her girls (the female dancers) for the benefit of her clients. She asks for male dancers but there are none, and then – in a moment of sympathy – laments that the female dancers will hate her if she asks for them to be removed.

This is Grace Jones in a nutshell. Bloodlight and Bami presents her as she is: beautiful and strong, sensitive and fierce. Her eloquence, both in the lyrics of her songs and in the frank conversation she shares with those she is close to, suggest someone who loves life (and her work) to the core. Fiennes doesn’t do anything radical in her handling of the footage or the approach, but with a subject like Grace Jones a simple approach is still spellbinding.

Tom Duggins