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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

FT » Film » "Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus"

I've really become a big fan of Jim White over the past few years, so when I stumbled upon his film "Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus" while surfing past The Sundance Channel the other night, I immediately stopped down and began watching. I was expecting some kind of full-length performance piece, and while both White and his music are prominently featured, there are several others along for the ride.

Joining White at various stops along his roadtrip through Dixie are Johnny Dowd, 16 Horsepower, The Handsome Family and David Johansen (yes, THAT David Johansen!). I saw Dowd open for Neko Case last year, and he is one bizarre dude. His presence here adds a twisted bit of eerieness to the already skewed proceedings, and you can almost imagine him as White's hard-livin' "Uncle Johnny." Along with 16 Horsepower, The Handsome Family and Johansen, Dowd and White's musical interludes powerfully punctuate the scenery and those who reside within.

What really struck me about this film was how closely White examines the dichotomy between good and evil in the American South, and how folks in small Southern towns are almost universally either zealously devoted to their church and their version of God or completely consumed with the desire to drink, drug and fornicate. No sides are taken here, as various Pentacostal-style churches are visted with scenes of people speaking in tongues, while seedy dive bars are also seen with patrons shown whooping it up with every bit of intensity witnessed inside those "fringe" churches across town.

Like the South, the pace of this film might be too slow for some people, but I found it to be a thrilling ride, regardless.


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