Posted Oct 18 2018

LFF 2018 Preview - Blaze

Die: Ethan Hawke

Starring Ben Dickey, Alia Shawkat, Josh Hamilton, Ethan Hawke, Sam Rockwell, Kris Kristofferson, Richard Linklater

Ben Dickey gives a powerhouse performance as the late folk-country singer Blaze Foley in Ethan Hawke’s latest outing as director, his most accomplished turn behind the camera to date. For those not in the know – and that appears to be just about everyone – Blaze was a talented singer-songwriter, dealing with a lot of personal damage, both physical and emotional, a dependency on alcohol, and someone who, despite having his songs covered by the likes of Willie Nelson, fell through the cracks. Hawke’s sincere biopic attempts to redress some of that loss.

In doing so it takes two distinct narrative devices – first is a radio interview with his more well known contemporary Townes Van Sandt (an excellent Sexton – being interviewed by an off-camera Hawke as the DJ), whilst the second is a recreation of Foley’s final concert played to just a few people in a small club, but recorded for posterity. As Dickey plays each song, Hawke turns his film back to the key moments in Blaze’s life, mostly concerning his relationship with his wife Sybil (an excellent Shawkat.)

 Hawke, himself a long time musician, clearly has a great deal of affection for his subject matter here, employing the soundtrack of Blaze’s life as the emotional narrative of his film. And much of the music is lovely (even if at times it does remind you of some John Prine – something that is touched upon more than once.) Hawke also drops in some blink and you’ll miss them cameos from friends of his – Linklater and Rockwell, but reserves a special place for an absolutely gorgeous moment from Kristofferson.

But it is Dickey ( a man who once played in a band with the spectacular name of Amen Booze Rooster) and his shambling, limping, falling to pieces but with the voice of an angel performance that dominates the film.

Much like Blaze’s final captured performance, Hawke’s movie has a tendency to ramble. But it feels like a love letter, and one full of heart and feeling, and one with a cleverly integrated moment-shifting denouncement that can’t help but move.

Blaze plays the LFF on 20 & 21 October

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