The name Clarence Reid probably doesn't ring many bells unless you are a soul music aficionado. Reid was among the chief architects of the Miami soul sound in the '60s and '70s and the author of many a hit record. What many people outside of the business don't know is that by night, Reid would don a superhero costume and become Blowfly, the original dirty rapper. Or so he says. The party scene originated around the late '60s-early '70s, and several people, including the venerable Rudy Ray Moore, can lay claim to being the originator. However, any definitive claims as to its origin are specious at best, but that's part of Blowfly's charm. Johnathan Furmanski's documentary, The Weird World of Blowfly
, is as much a history lesson as it is an exploration of Reid and the character of Blowfly and the often blurry line between the two.
This isn't a straight history lesson, it is more of a portrait of a man with a significant place in music history and his attempts to keep from becoming a footnote. In the service of that mission, he tours his old ass off trying to make a buck and keep his name in people's minds. The man behind the plan to resurrect Blowfly is struggling drummer, Tom Bowker, who sees Blowfly as his meal ticket and a way to make a reasonable living as a musician. As such, he acts as Reid's manager, tour manager, drummer, lyricist, and hype-man for the duration of the film. This film is almost as much about Tom's master plan as it is about Blowfly's legacy.
The tension between Tom and Clarence is often palpable. We get numerous shots of Tom getting pissed off at Clarence for being a crotchety old man, and Clarence being a crotchety old man. The only problem for Tom is that Clarence is what he is, and Tom is trying to mold him into a man he was thirty-odd years ago. Clarence just doesn't have the stamina, and Tom pushes him to his limits, often with Clarence's tacit approval. The conflict between the two men is sometimes hilarious, and at other times really uncomfortable. This, however, is what gives The Weird World of Blowfly
its hook. It isn't simply a dry love letter to a beloved crusty old man, it is a portrait of a man still trying to make his way, and the forces pushing and pulling at him at the same time.
Blowfly is a legend, and there is plenty of archival footage of the man to prove it. He's seen performing in his younger days a couple of times, he performs as Blowfly in front of fellow musicians, led by Isaac (Truck Turner) Hayes on piano. He is gushed over by such luminaries in the rap world as Chuck D of Public Enemy and Ice-T. This admiration makes it all the more difficult to watch him get dressed up in his silly costume every night in front of crowds that range from 6 to 50 people in dingy clubs all over the world. We begin to question if it is all really worth it.
Furmanski's documentary pulls no punches. Sure, there are the glowing testimonials from the above mentioned heavies, but there are also more candid observations from two of his ex-wives, his children, and some of his former business associates in Miami, hell, Reid's mama even gets interviewed for the film. However, for all of his shortcomings, Clarence Reid comes off as a genuine person, he loves what he does, and he'll be damned if he's gonna stop before he's ready. Furmanski shows not only a love for his subject, but also the willingness to show such a legendary character in a real light, which allows the audience to relate much more easily. The Weird World of Blowfly
sure as shit isn't an Oscar kinda film, but as a candid look into the life of a man trying to find his place in history, it's a solid gold hit.
The majority of The Weird World of Blowfly
was shot digitally, and as such, there are no transfer issues. I can say with confidence that the film looks very good, and probably exactly as the director intended. The sound is also very solid, especially during the performance sequences. However, this is a documentary, so don't expect anything too flashy. A solid A/V presentation of this film on Blu-ray from Indie Blitz.
The disc has a pretty copious amount of extra material for a small independently produced documentary. To start, there are two feature commentaries, one from Reid and one from Furmanski. There is also about one full hour of deleted scenes, which includes several exclusive musical performances from Reid and which help to give a better idea of the relationship between Tom Bowker and Clarence Reid. I found this hour of material nearly as engaging as the film itself, as it focuses mostly on Reid in a contemporary setting, rather than in the past tense. This is a great collection of footage, and well worth checking out.The Weird World of Blowfly
isn't your typical love letter to a legend of a bygone age. It is a solid reminder that in many cases, these men who are considered pioneers don't get to live out their lives in luxury in the palaces we imagine when we think of them. Highly recommended.