Visions of Joan

Joan Baez I Am Noise is an amazing documentary that moves its audience through the peaks and valleys of the career of the distaff folksinger.

A hard to beat opening includes archival clips that trace Baez as a folksinger from the late-1950s. As the ’60s unfold her force as a social activist is unparalleled.

This is where the Joan Baez: I Am a Noise shines a light on the part played by musical artists in the civil rights movement. Just as an aside this film has the Martin Luther King “I Have A Dream” speech. All of King’s speeches are copyrighted and you don’t see that clip in many films, including important narrative films dealing with said issues.

The second half seems to wander like a Bob Dylan song. Some poignant moments include footage of Baez sister Mimi Farina and her husband Richard singing “House Un-American Blues Activity Dream,” which is a Holy Grail song of the ’60s protest movement and one that’s sadly forgotten.

There’s also a low angle classic rock concert angle of Joan singing a verse of “Diamonds and Rust” that sends shivers down your mellotron.

Despite such awesome moments the documentary begins to feel rote after about an hour. It’s only then that directors Karen O’Connor and Miri Navasky bring the big reveal that the Baez daughters, all three sisters, were sexually abused by their father.

All along the entire film has been intercut with footage of her then recent tour that appears to be pre-Covid. A good walk down memory lane this is a film that also has a few demons to exorcize.

Joan Baez I Am Noise opens in theaters on October 6.

Also On

She Came to Me unwinds in an exceptional manner bouncing back and forth between being about art and then being about romance but really being about freedom in the final analysis.

Two families from different backgrounds are drawn together by at first comic and then potentially tragic circumstances. A great cast under the tutelage of writer/director Rebecca Miller delivers one of the best films of the year.

Peter Dinklage has the nominal lead but this is really an ensemble film. At times Marisa Tomei, Anne Hathaway, and Joanna Kulig have center stage and you can’t avert your eyes from the drama.

Dinklage composes opera and his wife psychiatrist Hathaway have a mutually respectful marriage. Things go south rapidly when Dinklage drops in at a dive bar as the rehearsals of his latest opus are not going as planned. It’s here he meets a disheveled tug boat captain, herself searching for solace by day drinking. I did not at first recognize Tomei as the sea faring creature who holds a spell over Dinklage and the audience.

Meanwhile, the children of Dinklage/Hathaway and their maid Kulig (so memorable from the 2018 Cold War) have met cute and have fallen in love unbeknownst to the other cast members. Here’s where things get sticky.

There are many parallels in this film. Characters from separate families have similar traits. Dinklage plays keyboards as he composes and the husband of Kulig, a very convinsing Brian d’Arcy James, also types a mile a minute like he’s playing a piano, only he’s a court reporter. For some strange reason he decides that the boy dating his daughter is guilty of rape despite the fact that their affection is mutual and decides to press charges.

Here’s where She Came to Me pulls out all the stops and becomes action oriented. Not action like a spy film but action like the motion of families changing loyalties and people using subterfuge to discover their true identities.


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