Directed by Ethan Hawke, Blaze explores the legacy of country singer/songwriter Blaze Foley, who belonged to the same scene as Townes Van Zandt, but was murdered before many people got to know his name. There’s plenty of mythology surrounding Foley and his hillbilly charm—he was known for wearing duct tape on the tips of his cowboy boots—but Ben Dickey’s raw performance makes the focus the flawed, tender man behind the songs (Lucinda Williams once called Foley “a genius and a beautiful loser,” which pretty much nails it).
Blaze’s best moments involve his relationship with actress Sybil Rosen (Alia Shawkat) and the time they spent living together in a treehouse in Georgia, but those get cut off due to frequent jumps to sepia-toned flashbacks. That nonlinear narrative also kind of makes sense, though, given the fact that Blaze’s history was lived by people who were often engulfed in a cloud of cigarette smoke and suffering from whiskey amnesia.
It’s not the first time Hawke has made a film about a forgotten musician—his 2014 directorial debut Seymour: An Introduction retraced the life of classical pianist Seymour Bernstein. Blaze isn’t particularly remarkable, but the attention given to Foley’s love story and the toll of his addiction are quietly gripping.
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