Blaze

Please Note: This film is no longer showing at Railroad Square Cinema

“Blaze is an experience, one that ever so gently opens your ears, your eyes, and your heart… Ethan Hawke’s high-wire biopic tells the story of country blues singer Blaze Foley in a redneck-verité style that’s as delicate as it is daring. Blaze Foley (Benjamin Dickey), the dissolute country-blues singer who’s the subject of Blaze is about as unlikely a central character as you’re ever going to see in a movie. When Blaze picks up his guitar and sings, it’s clear that he’s got a gift. On occasion, Blaze’s songs of loneliness and longing, like “If I Could Only Fly,” make you feel like you’re listening to some in-the-raw contempo version of Hank Williams. Just as often, he sounds like an amateur-night crooner lurching his way through a set at a local roadside dive—which, for much of Blaze, is just what he is. There really was a Blaze Foley, and in the years following his death, a handful of his songs found their way into the repertoire of country superstars like Merle Haggard, Lyle Lovett, Willie Nelson, and Lucinda Williams. During all that time, his aura has only grown. Blaze, however, is about a sweetly passive and self-destructive anti-star. He’s the hero as lug—but the thing is, this lug has heart. And the daring of Ethan Hawke as a filmmaker is that he shapes his scenes not in a conventional way but as randomly observed slivers of life that amble and glide along to Blaze’s dawdling spirit. A framing device is devoted to Townes Van Zandt, played ingeniously by the veteran musician Charlie Sexton (who radiates a hypnotically damaged star quality), seated in a radio studio being interviewed about Blaze, who became a friend of his when the two lived in Austin. From there, we cut to Blaze as he meets and gets to know Sybil Rosen (Alia Shawkat), the aspiring actress who became his wife. (The film is based on her memoir.) They do not, at a glance, seem the likeliest of couples. He’s a towering and inscrutable country boy; she’s Jewish, no-nonsense, and rather petite. But they find a vibe, and move in together in a roomy cabin in the woods that serves, for a while, as their treehouse paradise. The two have nothing but each other, and that’s enough…” —Owen Gleiberman, Variety. Unrated. 127 Min.