Grace Jones! The flamboyant, wild personality that we all love and know. Now age 69 she’s even more striking and ready to go than she’s ever been, and one person who picked up on this fireball of energy was talented film writer and director Sophie Fiennes.
Sophie completely stripped the living legend, revealing a more relatable and passionate Grace that we as fans in the past haven’t been fortunate to see – and it was beautifully done. On Wednesday many others and I were invited to cinema’s all around London for a private screening titled Grace Jones and Friends. Now, I never thought in a million years that I would be considered as one of Grace Jones’s friends but I really did feel a personal connection to her. It was as if she was talking to me directly throughout the film, and taking me on an adventure into her creative, as well as private, world. The exciting aspect was that the film officially hits cinema screens today Thursday October 27th – meaning I got a preview beforehand, so I guess I really am one of your friends Grace. Well, at least on Wednesday I was.
Kicking off with the beautiful BBC Radio 1 presenter Clara Amfo on the red carpet at the BFI cinema, we watched close family and friends of Grace sharing fond memories which they had shared in the past. It was so nice to see the support and love that was there for this ravishing woman, and from each person’s comments it was clear to see that Grace really knows how to keep long lasting relationships with people; and that is why she will forever be adored by many. Describing Grace as unique and having star quality and power Clara speaks with a very close friend and high profile fashion designer Philip Treacy. Philip started off by saying “Honestly Grace hates being called a ‘living legend’ as she says a legend is someone that is dead. However she is a legend.” Philip really makes it clear how much he admires Jones and it really makes you want to aspire for a long-lasting friendship similar to the pair as you can really see the love and respect between them.
Clara then moves on to speak with Grace’s only child, her son Paulo. Paulo is also featured in this amazing film and without saying too much is able to say a lot: “I want people to see a side of my mother that they never expected.” It’s clear to see that Paulo is aware of how the media have portrayed his mother over the years, and is very excited for people to see the woman that he has known all his life and grown up with through the lenses he uses.
In Bloodlight and Bami we get to see Grace Jones the mother, recording artist, entertainer, daughter and more; and this is something which Grace has never shown us as she prefers a private life – something she mentions in her interview with Time Out magazine when asked about whether she uses social media. Now before I jump in to this review for those of you who are not with it when it comes to Jamaican patois, and want to understand the film title: Bloodlight is the red light that illuminates when an artist is performing; and Bami means bread, a staple food in a Jamaican household which is the substance of life (two very prominent parts which we see throughout). Now, let me introduce you to the revolutionary icon we call Grace Jones.
It’s no secret that Grace was very much known for her expressive style and character. You couldn’t walk down the road and not recognise her, and for many reasons. Grace is a 5ft8 Jamaican woman with very sharp features, and a look which could kill – hence why her modelling career was extremely successful. Hats, scarfs and head-wraps are Jones’s thing and on her travels back to Jamaica she brings her family a huge box filled with beautifully designed hats, as that is the most popular item worn in church – something which is very important to her family back home. Now, believe it or not, Grace wasn’t raised in a lenient household. With a father that was a bishop, and her very strict step-grandfather Master Patrick – or referred to in the film as ‘Mas P’ – being incredibly strict, Grace was brought up to live a life that abided by biblical practices, and was far removed from the world she embodies now.
It’s evident to see the similarities in persona between Grace and Mas P, and as much as Grace can be a sweetheart, when she gets ‘pissed off’ – which is a phrase she uses a lot throughout the film – she really does. Let me give you a tip so you can stay on Grace’s good side. You will never be attacked without a warning! Sitting in a dressing room with some friends, Grace discusses her actions and who she is: “I always give a warning. I never strike without giving a warning.” It seems that she isn’t just the wild lady we thought she was – she just doesn’t like to be disrespected or mistreated which is understandable.
Disrespect isn’t something this Queen takes lightly and we see this in the beginning of the film when Grace is on the phone to a gentleman named Robbie who is supposed to be assisting her in the studio to finish off her album. Using an old Nokia phone – which I absolutely loved! – Grace calls Robbie and starts shouting at him asking him why he is messing her around, and constantly changing dates. It seems like Robbie isn’t understanding or listening to her and that’s when Grace really loses her cool: “Robbie I don’t have a record company. I am paying for everything myself, so we can do what we need to do.” One thing I definitely wasn’t aware of was how much time, energy or money Grace put in to her craft. Music was really her baby, and she didn’t take any nonsense when it came to her art. Not many artists these days are as willing to invest in themselves, and that’s what made her so unique.
Now let’s talk about uniqueness and boldness. Serving looks since the 80’s, she doesn’t appear to be stopping anytime soon. From scenes of nudity in the film it was very clear to see that confidence is written all over her glowing skin. Grace makes it known that her age really is just a number, and this woman is no stranger to the party and entertainment scene. Now you’re average 69 year old lady is probably sitting at home with the television or radio on in the background, with a cup of tea reading a newspaper – but not Grace. We see epic scenes of performances from hit songs ‘Williams Blood’, which is about her taking on her mother’s musical background rather than her father’s disciplined lifestyle. Her second single which she performed ‘My Jamaican Guy’ had not only the crowd in the film moving but all of us in the cinema doing a little jiggle. The beats are very essential to Jamaican music and this song definitely had that vibe which put you in an Island mood.
Her boldness is her strength and the outfits worn in each performance are absolutely amazing- you just have to see it!
Jones was a risk-taker and nothing could stop her!
A scene in the film shows her in a taxi in Paris, which is her second home, talking to the driver and discussing the ‘scene’ which the driver admits is completely different from when she lived there. He describes it as ‘quiet’ and Jones responds saying “That’s not good is it.” Well, Grace, I wonder what kind of life you really lived in 1980’s Paris? I guess that’s for you to know.
One thing I seemed to realise throughout this whole film is that Grace really just aimed to live her best life. Getting old didn’t scare her – in fact death didn’t scare her. The only thing she said was “I don’t mind being alone, I can always find something to occupy myself – however I don’t ever want to be lonely.” This is demonstrated throughout as she stays at her family home, talking to her mother Marjorie about her father; Mrs Myrtle her grandmother who discusses her childhood; and her son Paulo and niece who sit with her drinking wine and having a cigarette as they discuss her upbringing and vivid but important memories growing up in Jamaica.
Grace appreciates life for what it is, mentioning that whenever she has a hotel room it always has to have a view as she loves waking up and looking outside to watch the sun set. It’s these kind of moments where we really get to see the humanitarian in her: especially with what she eats. We see Grace eat coconuts, seafood and other freshly made dishes. Struggling to crack open a mussel she says “They got some tight mussels, I wish my pussy was this tight” – in which everyone burst out laughing in the cinema. It’s this kind of humour that truly makes her one of a kind.
The film closes with Grace and her family on a hill in Jamaica going to visit some other family members and Grace is bare faced – which I had never seen before this film – and I can honestly say she’s beautiful. Walking into the distance towards the sunset with her son Paulo, the film comes to an end – which was unexpected as I was waiting for something more. However, looking back, I liked what Sophie Fieness did. It was nice to see this beautifully made woman walk off into her destiny and not looking back at anything. I really was inspired by her whole being. Grace, even if I was your friend for a night, you have made an ever-lasting impact on me and many others. I’m sure this film is a testament to who you are, and I’m sure you will continue to be a living legend.
Make sure you go and check out Bloodlight and Bami in cinemas today.
Let’s continue to keep Grace Jones alive and go down in history!