Larger than life, wild, scary and androgynous – Grace Jones plays all these parts. Yet here we discover her as lover, daughter, mother, sister and even grandmother, as she submits herself to our gaze and allows us to understand what constitutes her mask.
The stage is where Grace Jones’ most extreme embodiments are realised and her theatrical imagination lets loose: this is where the musical of her life is played out. The film includes unique performances of her iconic hits “Slave To The Rhythm” and “Pull Up To The Bumper” as well as more recent autobiographical tracks, “Williams’
Blood”, “This Is” and “Hurricane”. These personal songs link to the film’s narrative that follows Grace on a holiday road trip across her native Jamaica, with her son Paulo and niece Chantal. Here the family’s roots and the story of her traumatic childhood are uncovered.
Grace and her brothers Chris and Noel, raised for several years by their violent, disciplinarian step grandfather Mas P, now attempt to understand and exorcise this formative experience. Meanwhile the sensuality of the island and its tropical splendours resonate a pleasure principal that has equally shaped Grace Jones’ appetite for life.
In Jamaican patois, ‘Bloodlight’ is the red light that illuminates when an artist is recording and ‘Bami’ means bread, the substance of daily life. The film cuts between Jamaica and Jones’ public and professional life. Here we see her as a gypsy moving between Tokyo, Paris, Moscow, London and New York, an artist in the recording studio with Jamaican drum and bass duo Sly and Robbie (musical collaborators across her career) or recounting to some backstage groupies her infamous Russell Harty TV appearance, from her side of the story. Warm and funny, she is both Bacchus – the wild partying hedonist – and a fierce and tenacious businesswoman.
Her stage is the fixed point to which the film returns, with “Love Is The Drug” acting like an aria, bringing the film to its final and most touching scenes including an encounter with French photographer Jean Paul Goude, father of Jones’ son Paulo and creator of her iconic album covers. This is a Grace we have not seen before, someone who reminds us of what it is to dare to be truly alive. In all her apparent contradictions, Grace Jones may appear an exception, but she is also a point of identification: she is the exception that proves the rule.
Grace Jones: Bloodlight & Bami – in cinemas for a limited time from March 8, 2018. Check for your local participating cinema here.