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Janis: Little Girl Blue 

Wednesday, Dec 2 2015
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One of the three high-profile rock stars to die at the turn of the 1970s, but never quite afforded the mythic status assigned to her male counterparts Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin receives her long overdue documentary treatment in Amy Berg's Janis: Little Girl Blue. (Howard Alk's 1974 Janis was arguably less a documentary than a performance film.) Berg works from copious existing footage, new interviews with colleagues and relatives, and most fascinatingly, letters Janis wrote to her parents. Read aloud by Chan Marshall — a.k.a. Cat Power — they paint a portrait of woman who possessed an extraordinary talent to express raw emotion in her voice. That emotion was mostly pain that came from existing in a world in which happiness was elusive — all the more so because it was a world that didn't consider her pretty enough, and which reminded her of her genetics in such unsubtle ways as the Alpha Phi Omega frat at her college voting her "Ugliest Man." (Goddamn fucking straight boys, seriously.) Little Girl Blue has an advantage over most biographical documentaries in that its subject had such a short life and career. This allows for tighter storytelling 45 years on, and tragic as her death at 27 was, it ultimately feels appropriate that Janis burned out before she could fade away.

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Sherilyn Connelly

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