“It’s more than 20 years since Townes died, nearly 30 years for Blaze. To this day, some people maintain that Townes Van Zandt was the worst thing to happen to Blaze Foley. Some say the opposite. Every tragedy needs a villain, I suppose.”
A finely entangled tapestry of blues and biographical piece-writing, Blaze finds itself among the best recent films (e.g. Born to be Blue, Inside Llewyn Davis) that tells the story of a musician on his road to the heights and lows. A musician who, described by his “muse,” Sybil Rosen, “fell into a tree house in the woods, gleefully poor and frequently mind-altered, and there . . . began to dream up the legend of Blaze Foley.” A musician who loved to make music but refused to become the industry manufactured product so many entertainers today become. And, oh yea, a musician who loved to drink himself into self-sabotage.
Based on the biographical work of Rosen, Living in the Woods in a Tree: Remembering Blaze Foley, the film “which runs on heartbreak and bad decisions” is an unsteady and relentless drawing of deep water that forces the audience to forfeit their own self-awareness and become engrossed with the life on-screen. As Bill Goodykoontz (AZ Central) writes, “the kind of movie that, if you give yourself to it, you’ll love.” There is an uncanny parallel with La La Land in the way that Blaze (musician) and Sybil (actress) sharpen one another, as Brian Tallerico (Roger Ebert) notes, a “dynamic in which one person helps bring out the artistic dimensions of another.”
Bleak and unapologetic, with moments of deep self-reflection in the pursuit of a complimentary depiction of the music that made the man and the man who made the music. Ethan Hawke does a brilliant job weaving together the three-fold narrative between the storytelling of Townes Van Zandt (played by Charlie Sexton), the storytelling by Blaze Foley (played by Ben Dickey) in his songwriting, and the actual events being pieced together from the two fabrics. A challenging editing project that works wonders in its impeccable capacity to tell a story that I suspect, in less capable hands, could have been a serious bore.
There is also something that needs to be said about the seriously impressive first time performance from Ben Dickey. With so much hype around Richie Merritt (White Boy Rick), it’s really Dickey — alongside Helena Howard (Madeline’s Madeline) — who deserve the recognition for this years break-out performances.
Go see it!