Nina Simone, Love Sorceress | Chicago Reader

Nina Simone, Love Sorceress

Rene Letzgus' 1998 French documentary of a 1976 concert by the late singer is hampered by a few distractions, but the event being documented is so riveting and so eccentric in its own right that it hardly matters. This isn't so much a concert as a work of performance art (one of the best I've seen since Richard Pryor—Live in Concert) in which Simone's divalike behavior is as much a part of the show as her Juilliard-trained piano playing and her stupendous untrained voice. Whether she's performing “Little Girl Blue” and a Langston Hughes tribute, alternately barking at or complimenting the audience (or getting it to sing with—or instead of—her), making cryptic comments to herself about show business or life in general, or dancing in high heels to African drums, she's such a commanding and powerful presence that I was mesmerized for most of the film's 75 minutes. In unsubtitled French.

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