Jimi: All Is by My Side

Jimi: All Is by My Side ★★★½

André Benjamin (AKA André 3000) from OutKast does an uncanny job of channeling Jimi Hendrix in this narrowly focused biopic. Because of problems obtaining rights to Hendrix's music, the film only covers the year or so period from 1966 to 1967, starting when Hendrix (going under the name Jimi James) was an unknown back-up guitarist in New York, through his relocation to swinging London where he formed the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and up to the invitation to perform at the seminal rock concert "Monterey Pop" (where, incidentally, I happened to have watched him play in person and was blown away by this previously unknown genius.)

The film could have used more of Hendrix's music, especially his vocals. Instead it concentrated on Hendrix's affairs and friendships with several girls, including posh Linda Keith (girlfriend at the time with Keith Richards), a plummy performance by Imogen Poots. Director John Ridley (who also wrote the inventive script) had a good eye for the period; but occasionally he would fall into some annoying editorial tics, such as playing a scene totally without any sound or conversely with sound only against a black screen. But the film belonged to Benjamin. Like him or not as an actor, one has to be impressed by the veracity of his guitar playing, and his convincing job of maturing his character as an artist.