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Review: Jimi: All Is By My Side



John Ridley writes and directs this ambitious, stylistically-loose biopic of Jimi Hendrix's London years.

In sixties New York, Linda Keith (Imogen Poots) spots young electric-guitar player, Jimi Hendrix (Andre Benjamin), who she believes has potential and subsequently sets him up with manager Chas Chandler (Andrew Buckley). Now with management Hendrix moves to London where he embraces the rock and roll scene of the period.

The above synopsis makes Jimi: All Is By My Side read a like a clean-cut biopic, which is not the case. This tale comprised of fictional encounters may not be grounded in reality, but captures the primal energy and spacey power of Hendrix's persona and music. Breaking free of the traditional narrative and stylistic chains of the cinematic biopic Jimi places more emphasis on energy and sensory feeling than conventional structure.

With intercut archive footage, out-of-sync dialogue and trippy visuals, Jimi is loaded with the erratic spirit of the London music scene of the sixties - feeling part-LSD trip, part-immersive glimpse into the unconventional psyche of Hendrix. Stylistically evoking the hodgepodge madness and chaos of Ken Russell's musical epics, Jimi excels as a sparse mood-piece.

Andre Benjamin delivers a near-transcendent performance, blurring the line between actor and character. For the length of Jimi, Benjamin is Hendrix. In a role of such few words, Benjamin captures an insightful portrait of an artist driven by the raw power of music and its connection with the human spirit. There is conflict in the form of Hendrix's legions of manipulators and groupies - landing somewhere in between is an unrecognisable Hayley Atwell as Kathy Etchingham - Hendrix's London girlfriend. However, it is Imogen Poots who remains a force to be reckoned with in this magnetic turn as Linda Keith.

The lack of Hendrix's music within the project may disappoint the late-singer's fanbase, and the unconventional stylistics and lengthy runtime of Jimi may further alienate. However, for those willing to immerse themselves in Ridley's biopic, Jimi is a bold, ambitious and often-absorbing glimpse into Hendrix's magnetism as an artist and the trippy energy of the sixties music scene.

★★



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