Thirty years on, Neal’s contribution to our perception and understanding of Jimi Hendrix ought to be enormous.
“The basic premise for Room Full of Mirrors was to allow Jimi to explain himself. It could so easily have been other people’s ideas of Jimi”, says Peter Neal, who remains passionate about the progressive agendas unleashed during the 60s. After sifting through various documentary sources, he pieced together an autobiographical script, which provides the film with its narrative motor. Though this in-his-own-words approach necessities an actor’s voice, any credibility gap is quickly overcome, and like those other from-the-grave noir classics Double Indemnity and Sunset Boulevard, you are soon gripped and engaged.
While there is no wisecrackin’ Billy Wilder to write the script on this occasion, the quotes have been well-chosen, allowing the facts of Jimi’s life to entwine with more personal thoughts that reveal much about the man’s motivations.
The binding together of music and narrative is simply stunning throughout. This is where so many directors can get hideously unstuck; thankfully, Neal draws from the full range of Hendrix’s musical palette and is on the mark almost every time. Any film biography of Jimi Hendrix that announces itself with a stunning unreleased take of “Voodoo Chile”, with all its portents (“Well the night I was born, Lord I swear the moon turned a fire red”), is obviously on the right track.
The usual bench-marks (festivals, splits, busts) are secondary to a total immersion in Jimi’s world in this film. And there are very few talking heads in the picture. Instead, Neal’s film offers a tapestry of archive footage (mostly of Jimi and the band, sometimes newsreel extracts to illustrate theme) and stills, which he then manipulates into a spectacular study of Hendrix and his music. It’s such powerful stuff that longtime buffs will have trouble believing that the movie wasn’t somehow sanctioned by Jimi.