The outlaw country movement of the ’70s and ’80s spawned many music legends—Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, and Waylon Jennings—but Blaze Foley likely isn’t the first songwriter who springs to mind. Since his tragic death in 1989, however, the legend of Blaze has grown almost as big as the man himself. He left little behind in the way of tangible legacy, as his achingly intimate and personal songs were seldom recorded, but those close to him knew a man who stayed true to his ideals no matter how many bar fights he got into over them.
Newcomer Benjamin Dickey fills the title role with appropriate gusto, and director Ethan Hawke weaves together three singular threads of time to represent the life of Blaze Foley. Through these separate strands—his love affair with girlfriend Sybil Rosen, an alcohol-fueled night spent singing and picking guitar at Austin’s famous Outhouse bar, and a posthumous radio interview where musicians Zee and Townes Van Zandt remember their departed friend—the true story of Blaze unfolds. Or is it all just legend?
“If the film were any less accomplished, that redneck-verité approach might have proved disastrous. But BLAZE, which leaps around in time, telling Blaze Foley’s story by zeroing in on a handful of disparate moments, is beautifully made. It’s an organic slice of life — raw and untidy, deceptively aimless but always exploratory.” —Owen Gleiberman, Variety “Let the word go forth from this time and place: Ethan Hawke, director of the excellent Blaze Foley biopic BLAZE, is apparently extremely good at getting stunning performances out of non-actors. Ben Dickey, a 40-year-old musician from Arkansas, already has been feted at Sundance for his performance as Foley in BLAZE, but nothing quite prepares you for seeing it on the big screen. It’s a tour de force of oversized charm and verve, a living ballad of song-writer-as-ramblin’-man (and almost compulsive screw-up).” —Joe Gross, Austin 360
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