‘Lost Angel: The Genius of Judee Sill’ is a fitting tribute for a folk legend (film review)
Documentary Lost Angel: The Genius of Judee Sill premiered last night (11/14) at SVA Theatre as part of the annual DOC NYC film festival, accompanied by Q&A moderated by Rolling Stone's Angie Martoccio with directors Andy Brown and Brian Lindstrom, plus musician and interviewee Shawn Colvin. Lost Angel is a proper send-up to Judee, the legendary folk singer-songwriter who released two stellar albums and worked with some of the greats at Asylum Records before her untimely passing at age 35.
The film covers the entirety of her life, from her childhood in Oakland and LA (including the passing of her father, mother, abusive step-father, and brother) to her struggle with addiction from age 19 through her death, as well as the role of religion, love, and fame in her life. The directors emphasized how important it was to have Judee tell her own story, to the fullest possible extent, via recorded interviews with Rolling Stone and her meticulously-kept personal journals. They acquired the journals, as well as her full personal archive, four years into the nine-year process of making the film, exposing Judee's profound interiority--prayers for savior from her addiction, moments of anger and strife, and explorations of the far reaches of her music writing, all scrawled in her own looping script.
Lost Angel highlights some of Judee's most iconic songs in fascinating detail: it opens on Fleet Foxes' Robin Pecknold covering "The Kiss" off 1973's Heart Food and later features Big Thief's Adrianne Lenker analyzing and playing the song on solo acoustic guitar; JD Souther and Linda Ronstadt, whose love triangle with Judee heavily influenced songs on her self-titled debut, comment on early hit "Jesus Was A Crossmaker"; Natalie Mering of Weyes Blood and a number of musicians and journalists break down the tragic opus that is "The Donor." The film documents her songwriting and instrumental prowess, including orchestration and conducting (both of which she taught herself). Song after song, chapter after chapter, Judee Sill's soul is laid bare.
Lost Angel: The Genius of Judee Sill is comprised of archival footage, recordings, photographs, original animations, and interviews with family, friends, authors, and musicians, including the aforementioned names as well as Graham Nash, David Crosby, Big Thief's Buck Meek, Jackson Browne, David Geffen, and more. Lost Angel: The Genius of Judee Sill is available to stream until November 27. More info via DOC NYC.
Read more about Judee Sill's debut as one of 12 essential, trailblazing '60s/'70s folk albums by women.