TORONTO -- I caught John Ridley’s Jimi Hendrix movie on the fly in Toronto.
Literally. “All Is By My Side” was the last film I watched at the festival before catching a plane back to L.A.
The film is both written and directed by Ridley, whose script for “12 Years a Slave” is all the talk at Toronto. “All Is By My Side” is a smaller indie project that captures a year in the life of the game-changing guitarist.
The year was 1966. During that time he went from small-time Jimmy James to big-time Jimi Hendrix -- most of it in London and with a little help from a new friend, Linda (Imogen Poots), who at the time was Rolling Stones Keith Richard’s girl.
Though the film is a bit of a mess, with one too many rough transitions, I did like the formal introduction it gave me to Andre Benjamin, who plays Hendrix with a mesmerizing, shredding, screeching flair.
Technically the playing should have come easily. Benjamin, aka Andre 3000, made his name fronting the madly popular hip-hop group Outkast with his partner in crime, Big Boi. He’s also been one of Hollywood’s go-to guys for soundtracks for a while -- both writing and performing. “The Great Gatsby” is one of the most recent.
On the acting front, he put in a couple of seasons on “The Shield.” Though that’s one of those TV series I know was great, I’ve yet to catch up with it. Sorry, Michael Chiklis.
Benjamin was also the third man in the relatively bland 2008 comedy “Semi-Pro.” Will Farrell and Woody Harrelson got better play, but not better dialogue.
In “All Is By My Side,” though, Benjamin is center stage and unforgettable.
I can’t predict how the many who worship Hendrix will ultimately judge Benjamin’s rendition. I only know I could have watched him do his thing forever. It truly was like watching a relationship between man and guitar unfold, expand and overwhelm.
The actor had probably clocked a million hours on guitar before he took this role. But not left-handed, which Hendrix was. So apparently Benjamin spent nearly three months, 24/7, learning how that would feel –- how that would play.
Anytime that guitar was in Benjamin’s hands, it played pretty darned well.