Sunday, 15 June 2014

Crossroads (1986)

"You're just one more white boy ripping off our music."

I had to blog this film. For one thing, it has Ralph Macchio in it. For another, it's obviously about the fiftieth anniversary of Robert Johnson laying down those first tracks back in 1936; if you haven't heard any Robert Johnson then go and listen to "Come On in My Kitchen" right NOW!!!

It's a fairly standard light-hearted Hollywood film from 1986, really, but it's entertaining enough and has some interesting things to say about the Blues and it's expropriation by those with no links to its cultural origins in the formerly enslaved West African diaspora in the American South, a musical form with its roots in Bantu culture and unimaginable hardship. It's also an interesting snapshot of the American South some twenty years after the Civil Rights era. It also has some very '80s guitar widdling by Steve Vai.

We begin by evoking the Blues with the sound of a mouth organ, and Robert Johnson in monochrome. The film then shifts to colour and the picaresque adventures of the young, white, Blues-loving Eugene Martone and the cynical yet big-hearted old bluesman, Willie Brown. On the way some lessons are learned and it's all a bit Huckleberry Finn, although it's a nice touch that Willie, like Robert Johnson himself, has a hellhound on his trail and a debt to discharge to Satan. Cue a road trip down to Mississippi, some racism and police corruption and some partying while young Eugene gets himself a girl and old Willie gets to relive his youth.

It's a film that's not as well remembered as it should be; by no means a must-see but a nice little curiosity piece.

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