Woman of Heart and Mind
Eagle Vision/Times Music
For any prolific female songwriter one might come across today or for that matter in the past two decades, it’s highly probable that Joni Mitchell figures as a chief influence. Lauded by ROLLING STONE as one of the greatest songwriters ever, some people place Dylan and Mitchell on the same altar. It is not exactly in the execution but in the credible subject and inspiring story that makes this documentary worth its while. Mitchell’s life reads like a book with steep turns. A young Mitchell was faced with experiences beyond her years, leading to her rapid growth as an insightful musician at a very young age. In fact, writing a definitive number as ‘Both Sides Now’ in 1969 ”“ “I’ve looked at life from both sides now/From win and lose and still somehow/Its life’s illusions I recall/I really don’t know life at all” – when her career was only taking off is evidence enough. The documentary brings out significant parallels between Mitchell’s life and song-writing, which went mostly hand in hand ”“ such inherent overlaps assist the documentary immensely. For lack of footage from her hey days, the documentary ends up chopped through still frames interspersed with present day interviews with Mitchell, and people who were part of her life or have followed her career closely such as David Crosby, Graham Nash and David Geffen. Through the documentary David Crosby seems completely spell bound, treating Mitchell as a phenomenon and otherworldly enchantress. The old frames retain a certain vintage mystery about Mitchell’s life and lend an element of fiction to the documentary. Some very interesting pieces of trivia and unknowns surface in this documentary such as Mitchell’s abandoned love child, the unsung painter in Mitchell, why she wasn’t present at Woodstock ’69 and of how music never really figured in her schemes of a future. In retrospect, the seminal singer songwriter has a lot of wisdom to impart, allowing one to better comprehend the workings and wanderings of the story teller. Her musical journey which has tread many a terrain is mapped with fair justice through her collaboration with Charles Mingus, going electric, dabbling with the psychedelic generation. Of her loves Chuck Mitchell, Nash, and Larry Klein all of whom are romances of the past today, it seems the blue eyed boy Nash had her heart. The documentary comes full circle, showing Mitchell reconciling with her daughter and giving painting its due. And in all frankness if you already thought Mitchell was the stuff of genius, this documentary will have you build her a shrine.