Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami
Grace Jones is celebrated in this doc from Sophie Fiennes, but its naturalistic style means that most questions about the iconic star's extraordinary life and career go unanswered
Sophie Fiennes' Bloodlight and Bami divides its time between Grace Jones’ mesmerising concert performances and her quieter moments re-connecting with family in Jamaica, travelling between projects, and arguing on the phone with her collaborators. This approach makes perfect sense given the film’s subject: someone as otherworldly and iconic as Grace Jones lives as much upon the stage as anywhere else, the performance as much a part of her true self as any part of her 'real' life.
Fiennes commits wholly to allowing Jones to speak for herself, refusing to contextualise or annotate what her fly-on-the-wall camera captures, refusing to probe or force direction upon what unfolds. In costume, Jones belts out classics like Slave to the Rhythm and Love is the Drug with her signature, scintillating gravitas. There are no cutbacks to her “prime”, no explanation of her rise to pop culture’s highest pantheon, and no need for either: a single song is all it takes to show how she took the world under her spell.
Off-stage, everything feels overheard, like a conversation we’ve drifted into the middle of. Some of the snippets are revealing, like when Jones traces the domineering, masculine qualities of her stage persona to her abusive step-grandfather “Mas P”. However, the formless, naturalistic style leaves most questions unanswered. What lies behind that persona? Who is Jones when she isn’t striking poses that could level skyscrapers?
We can watch her cradle the newest Jones to arrive into the world and wonder who Grace the grandmother is, but Bloodlight and Bami gives nothing away.
Fiennes' commitment to her unintrusive style gives the film a softness, creating a misty Jamaican mood piece that leaves Jones’ mystique undiminished. The cost is that we leave the film knowing no more of the human being behind the glittering mask than we did when it began. [Ross McIndoe]