Thursday, October 6, 2022

film review: Darryl Jones: In The Blood



Directed by Eric Hamburg

ChinoKino score: C

Review by Allan Tong

Superman is boring. Superman can soar, twist steel, beat any bad guy into a pulp and save entire planets. Aside from kryptonite, nothing can weaken Superman, certainly not destroy him. He is perfect.

That's how I felt about Darryl Jones after watching the first half of this new documentary profiling the bass player for the Miles Davis, Sting and the Rolling Stones. Don't get me wrong: Mr. Jones is one of the greatest musicians to have ever picked up a bass. Chosen by taskmaster Miles Davis alone catapults him into the top echelon of bassists on any planet. This guy can play.


However, this documentary does a shaky job in telling us who he is. For starters, the film opens on the Rolling Stones heaping praise on Jones for being (what else?) a great player as well as a cool guy, a nice guy and a prolific reader. But does anyone name a book? Nope. This sort of facile, fawning interviewing starts In The Blood poorly. Further, you're left wondering if the film is about the Stones (disclosure: I love the band) or Darryl Jones.

Eventually, the film lets Jones tell his story, starting with growing up on Chicago's South Side in the times of the 1960s race riots, of developing a race consciousness, of joining the Civil Rights Movement, and of course, of falling in love with performing. When he was a boy, Jones felt the love of an appreciative audience and wanted only that for the rest of his life. His parents supported his passion. His parents loved music and taught him a few instruments. Meanwhile, one played jazz constantly, another adored soul and local radio played everything from James Brown to the Beatles. Quite an education.

This part of the film is good. It's meaty and revealing. However, the style of filmmaking is rudimentary and unimaginative. It's 90% talking heads, with interviews taking place in random parts of (what I presume) Jones' house. There's no attempt at lighting or clearing distracting kitchen appliances or furniture out of the background. The footage looks like something shot on someone's phone. Further, there's no use of establishing footage, like a wide shot of Chicago to tell the viewer where they are, or flourishes like seeing Jones' fingers pluck his bass strings. Shots are static. The camera hardly moves. At best, an interview cuts to stock footage of a still photograph or concert for a few seconds. Jones' recollections aren't told through animation, a common--but effective--tool for documentarians and which would have elevated this film.

Oddly enough, there's no background music playing underneath the interviews. Instead, we hear local traffic roll by. Distracting. Cold. That's strange for a film about a musician.

Again, don't get me wrong. Jones is a great bassist. I wanted to see this film for this reason and because I know nothing about the guy. In The Blood demystifies the man and paints a portrait, but this doc is ultimately too long and unsatisfying.