Saturday, September 09, 2006

Still Blazing Away...

Still in a documentary-watching mood this week, I stumbled across a copy of Marianne Faithfull: Dreaming My Dreams, a short but thorough biography of one of the most unique voices in popular music. Filmed in 1999, it’s a well-told story of Faithfull’s long and often troubled life, illustrated with an abundance of rare film clips and brief well-chosen interviews from friends and associates, but centered by the gutsy and incisive self-analysis of the subject herself. From her original appearance in the public eye as a slightly exotic pop-princess, little more than the pretty thing attached to Mick Jagger’s arm (being a Rolling Stone’s girlfriend evidently being a more interesting role than her career as a pop singer and actress) to a long and significant slide into heroin addiction, Faithfull once seemed unlikely to survive the 1970s, yet somehow emerged at the end of the decade, her voice having dropped into its current marvelous, growling range, to make a long string of excellent recordings, writing and performing strikingly personal songs of pain and confusion, in an inimitable style that walks a tightrope between punk and cabaret. Dreaming My Dreams – the title comes from a 1977 song that briefly re-ignited Faithfull’s career by becoming a no.1 hit in Ireland – is a warm tribute to a powerful and fascinating woman, revealing without becoming gossipy, its insightful interviews balanced by a generous selection of musical performances. The story of Faithfull’s transformation from school-girl-popstar to a punk Lotte Lenya (not surprisingly, Faithfull has become a gifted interpreter of Kurt Weill and other early 20th century German songs) is more than just the dream implied by the title; Faithfull emerges from the film, as on her records, as less a dream-like waif than a proud and powerful heroine who fought her own battles and triumphed.

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