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MOVIE: BETTY DAVIS – THEY SAY I’M DIFFERENT (as part of Revelation Film Festival 2018)

| 19 July 2018 | Reply

MOVIE: BETTY DAVIS – THEY SAY I’M DIFFERENT (as part of Revelation Film Festival 2018)
Written & Directed by Philip Cox
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar

Betty Davis was the high priestess of raunchy Seventies funk – a black woman who sang about sex and wrote some of the dirtiest, most outrageous music of the times. As her husband Miles Davis described her, she “was the first – Madonna before Madonna, Prince before Prince.”

With a handful of critically acclaimed albums to her name – all gravelly vocals and thrusting groins and ground-breaking dirtfunk – she just… disappeared.

This 54 minute documentary attempts to track Betty Davis down and find out what happened, where she went, what she’s doing – and it does so to a certain extent, though Davis opts to remain steadfastly enigmatic throughout.

She’s never shown directly on camera, just via fleeting shots of her hands or smart suit jacket sleeve and shoulder. She talks esoterically about her muse, the urgent need to create inside her, being a Crow who had been with her since childhood, spurring her to write and perform, and how empty she felt when she couldn’t hear Crow any more.

She alludes to the domestic violence doled out to her by husband Miles Davis – “every day I was married to Miles I earnt the name Davis” – without wallowing in pity or shame. There is nothing about Betty Davis which is ashamed of anything she has done. A bold, ground-breaking woman whose voice and songwriting and performing abilities are still held as inspirational, she blazed a trail few have dared to even attempt since.

Cox respects what presumably was Davis’ wish to remain mysteriously aloof. Not only does she not appear on camera, but her voice over is recorded to tape for his use, and she communicates with her old band via telephone only, despite their desperate wish to reunite and play together again.

The trauma which turned Davis away from the spotlight seems to have been reconciled within herself enough – though not enough to get back out there and start performing again, despite the wishes of her old band. Mind you, in a time when every two-bit hack reunites for a cash grab, it’s just another way that this ground breaking singer proves herself effortlessly respectable and – yes – very different from the pack.

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Category: Movie & Theatre Reviews

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