Little Richard Documentary Assessment: “I Am The whole lot”

“It ain’t what you do,” Little Richard as soon as sang, “it’s the best way the way you do it”. And nobody did it fairly just like the wildly influential Georgia Peach, who smashed societal norms as a bisexual Black man within the mid-Nineteen Fifties, shaking up the supposedly straight decade with songs about bum intercourse (‘Tutti Frutti’) and drag queens (‘Lucille’). In the event you’ve ever misplaced your shit to Paul McCartney’s holler or swooned over Harry Types’ androgyny, you’ve received Richard Penniman to thank.

But when Little Richard handed away in 2020 on the age of 87, there was a way that he’d by no means been totally recognised for his unparalleled improvements. That is the place Little Richard: I Am The whole lot, the sensational (and suitably fashionable) new documentary from Lisa Cortes, is available in. Cortes ropes in a powerful forged of gamers – together with A-listers, students and members of the family – to relay this complicated story in as nuanced a method conceivable. Mick Jagger bashfully acknowledges he copped Richard’s loose-limbed stage presence, whereas cousins Stanley Stewart and Newton Collier supply intimate recollections.

For the primary hour, Cortes faithfully traces the younger Richard’s ascent from the southern metropolis of Macon, Georgia to vertigo-inducing success in Hollywood and an notorious present at Sydney Stadium in October 1957, when he introduced his abdication from rock ’n’ roll in favour of the Church. The director, although, will not be content material with easy archive materials and speaking heads, as a substitute using a blinding field of methods such because the kaleidoscopic silver lens by means of which we view Richard’s largest influences – together with ‘40s celebrity Louis Jordan and gospel shouter Sister Rosetta Tharpe – working their magic.

Cortes presents Richard as a Zelig-like determine who crops up at key cultural moments within the twentieth century, all the time discovering a technique to reinvent himself as he returns sporadically to rock ’n’ roll. He knocks about with a pre-fame Beatles within the early ‘60s and, within the ‘70s, an period remodeled by the sexual revolution, amps up his gender-bending picture with glitzy capes and mirrored catsuits. Then there’s that unusual interval within the ‘90s the place retro-fetishism coalesced into a brand new form of ‘50s kitsch; right here Richard sends himself up in TV sitcoms similar to Full Home.

This leaves the director with an excellent deal to cram into the movie’s second half; inevitably a few of it bottle-necks. Apart from its dizzying visible language, although, what units Cortes’ movie aside is the forthright method through which she addresses the much less palatable points of Richard’s persona. Within the ‘70s and ‘80s, his non secular fervour had the behavior of tipping into outright bigotry as he renounced his sexuality; one painful chat present clip sees him declare that God made “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve”.

Whereas Cortes doesn’t excuse this behaviour, her contributors specific disappointment in however forgiveness in the direction of a conflicted determine clearly terrified by his personal supposed transgressions. Ultimately, there’s little question you’re taking a look at somebody who, as tutorial Jason King places it, “represented a whole upheaval of the prevailing social system” – and that we’re nonetheless having fun with the fruits of that bravery.

Jordan Bassett’s guide ‘Right here’s Little Richard’, which is a part of Bloomsbury Publishing’s 33 1/3 collection, is due for publication on November 2


  • Director: Lisa Cortes
  • That includes: Mick Jagger, Billy Porter, John Waters
  • Launch date: April 28 (in cinemas and on digital)