Janis: Little Girl Blue

Film, Documentaries
4 out of 5 stars
5 out of 5 stars
(5user reviews)
Janis: Little Girl Blue

A documentary on the life and legacy of legendary blues singer Janis Joplin, with great archive clips and interviews

Filmmaker Amy Berg’s deeply sympathetic documentary about Janis Joplin – a singer whose shredded wail tapped reservoirs of pain – gets so much right, it feels like a major act of cultural excavation. We get a glimpse of the high-school-aged Janis’s report card (mostly Cs and Ds) and a thorough sense of the tomboy rebel who found her way to San Francisco’s hippie scene. Joplin’s flower-girl mystique is punctured by frustrated bandmates and lovers of both sexes. Best are her letters to home, voiced by Cat Power’s Chan Marshall, pushing us further inside a troubled head than most rock docs dare.

As with recent films ‘Amy’ and ‘Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck’, tragedy can’t help but loom. Still, Joplin’s drug use turns out to be more of a battle than you might have known. She’d already gotten hooked on heroin and kicked it before succumbing to loneliness (and a relapse). Berg relies too often on a shot of a train track receding, while her film tells a more complex story: Joplin wasn’t drawn inexorably to her fate but instead comes off like an adventurer with a sad, untamed spirit.

By: Joshua Rothkopf


Release details

Release date:
Friday February 5 2016
103 mins

Cast and crew

Amy Berg

Average User Rating

4.8 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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1 person listening

I saw this at the Venice Film Festival last year and it's a fascinating watch even if you're only vaguely interested in Janis Joplin. I found the letters she wrote home to her parents most touching and most revealing. Inevitably, it's a deeply sad film too, but not in a mawkish way.

If ever there was a tale of unbridled talent born out of a tortured yet 'lovin'g soul, who touched our hearts burning bright and beautiful till their light was extinguished its Janis in Little Girl Blues. I found myself aged 61 ( Janis if alive now would be 70!)  transported by to the sixties : music, diary extracts, letters, personal interviews and remarkable backstage footage from Monterey and Woodstock were all skilfully interwoven and edited to create a wonderful, guaranteed to make you cry glimpse into the fleeting firefly flight of Janis remarkable performances.  Seeing her emerge onto the stage each time in flurries of beads, wild hair, flowing kaftan tops and velvet pants reminded me how unique her personality was and how she perfectly epitomised he boundless energy of the San Francisco  Sound. No wonder Mama Cass applauded her from the audience at Monterey. There were many anecdotal stories within Janis ' story and l had no idea she had been vilified by the feminist movement. How bizarre! What an amazing voice, what spirit and one that undoubtedly inspired singers like Amy Winehouse. Look out for the closing credit clips of comments from Pink, Juliette Lewis and remember the insightful answer John Lennon gives to a question about why some performers self destruct. Not revealing any more. Watch with relish and download the music. Having seen 'Janis', her vocals and presence will reach parts they never reached before because you'll feel the need to get up and groove the way she best liked to share her love of music. Take a friend to see Janis, introduce them to the raw,  often admittedly raucous tones of a rock, blues, soul, country,  - across the genres - voice. Who cares which genre. It's like Marmite, love her or hate her she will remain a 'classic'.

I highly enjoyed this preview screening thanks to the Time Out card.

The documentary makes you really feel the vibes of the 60's musical scene and it provides you with lot of first hand memories from Janis' family and musicians. It was a moving experience to recall what a great talent but also how fragile JJ actually was.

As the other reviewee mentions, this is quite similar to the Amy documentary but it actually seems more intimate, perhaps because her siblings were more closely involved in the production of it. You really do come away with a very strong sense of what Janis was like and the scale of her talent. Well worth seeing whether you're familiar with her work or not.

I have just returned home from the Time Out Card preview screening at Picturehouse Central. 

I thought Amy was a good documentary, but Janis tops it for me.

Live-footage glimpses into the music scene of the 60's make it so special.

Music and film lovers should go experience the genius and tragedy of Janis Joplin.

I am just about to download her albums.

I have come late to this, but will now make up for lost time.