Janis (1974)

Janis (1974)

“They always hold up something more than they’re prepared to give.”

Just before her death at the age of 27, Janis Joplin rehearses, performs, tours, visits her 10th high school reunion, and discusses her art with interviewers.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Biopics
  • Singers

This documentary about legendary rock star Janis Joplin — part of the infamous “27 Club” as one among too many artists who died at such a young age — is comprised exclusively of archival footage, without any additional narration or commentary (or, for that matter, any mention of her death). Though limited, it remains a poignant piece of collated cinema that may not answer many questions, but does give us a glimpse into the life of this traumatized young singer whose life was consumed by drugs. To that end, we’re able to clearly see how high and/or out-of-it Joplin was for much of her existence, while simultaneously giving powerhouse performances that — paraphrasing her own words — were what gave her energy and purpose in life. In this footage — as in her songs — she puts it all out there, being as consistently authentic as possible. While it will be of most interest — indeed, essential viewing — for Joplin fans, I think it’s worth a look by all film fanatics for its historical value.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Many memorable sequences and songs

Must See?
Yes, as an invaluable time capsule of Joplin’s short life.


  • Historically Relevant


One thought on “Janis (1974)

  1. Not must-see – though, as stated, Joplin fans will want to see it, and it holds interest for fans of rock / soul / blues history.

    There’s something about this doc which, for whatever reason, suggests that it was made to support Joplin’s legacy. In making the film, director Howard Alk was largely assisted by Joplin’s manager – Albert Grossman – so it’s possible that one of the main ideas was to keep Janis’ records selling.

    We actually see Janis in a relatively ‘good light’ throughout, and there’s just about no insight to the singer as a person… outside of a handful of honest remarks she makes about herself here and there.

    Wikipedia has a fairly extensive entry on Joplin – which lays out quite a bit re: the darker side of the performer… as well as the genuine vulnerability, and the conflicting impulses that Joplin couldn’t quite seem to get under control. Still, the resulting image one gets is that of an enigma – or perhaps I should say “someone who had yet to arrive” – and that’s something this doc can’t even begin to scratch at, except to show how she very much arrived on-stage.

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