The opening film of the 2014 Reel Indie Film Festival tells the story of legendary blues guitarist Johnny Winter. Performing since he was fifteen years old, Winter catapulted to fame after being featured on the cover of Rolling Stone in December of 1968, where he became known as the “whitest blues guitarist in history” (in reference to his albinism). Despite his fame, Winter suffered from a substance abuse problem, which nearly ended his life and career. Having conquered his demons, Johnny Winter experiences a late-career revival.
With Johnny Winter having passed away this past summer, there is a certain morose timing about the release of this documentary. The film follows Winter on tour, as he begins to become relevant again, following his longtime battles with heroin and methadone addiction. While perhaps not having the same energy he had during his heyday, Winter is still an excellent guitar player and in a better state of mind that he has been in years.
While much of Johnny Winter: Down & Dirty focuses on the elder Winter, there is still enough archive footage in the film to show why he is considered to be one of the greatest guitar players of all time. One element of the documentary, which sort of comes off the wrong way, is a scene that has people laughing at a heavily intoxicated Winter. With there being so much focus in the film on his recovery from drug addition, showing Johnny Winter as a rambling drunk seemed a bit insensitive. On a more positive note, there’s another drinking scene involving a great karaoke rendition of Ray Charles’ "Georgia on My Mind.” While probably not the definitive documentary about Johnny Winter, Johnny Winter: Down & Dirty is still a decent enough introduction to the legendary blues guitarist.
7 | FAIR
- Tuesday, October 14, 7:00 PM – Royal Cinema