Doc Edge 18 | Dealin’ with the Devil

Dealin’ with the Devil – New Zealand / 2017 / 102 mins / English / Phil Davison

Phil Davison, accomplished New Zealand song-writer and blues aficionado, tells the story of his influential friend and musical mentor Ralph Bennett-Eades, as he makes the harrowing descent to his untimely death, through the sultry and often dark sound of the blues.

Phil’s background as a Film Editing lecturer clearly shows, as he uses effective and visually stimulating animations, including a scene of aliens coming down from their galaxy to jam with his alter-ego Dr Marigaux – genuine Dr of Theology, within the barren walls of his ramshackle home in the heart of the Mississippi Delta.

The ‘Blues’ – characterized by it’s lyrics, bass lines and instrumentation.  All things that Davison certainly brings to this documentary through soulful genre and his unique mode of story-telling, as he takes us on a journey of human reflection and personal heartbreak through animation and music.

He references such greats as; BB King, Muddy Waters and Johnny Lee Hooker as he taps into the life of his loved companion Ralph and the journey his life took after he was diagnosed with Hepatitis C.   Not forgetting a notable mention to his trusty guitar named Hazel.

A vibrant, colourful man and like most humans, flawed.  The film speaks of Ralph’s decision to make a deal with God to start playing Gospel, and in doing so he would relinquish the blues, if only he should be allowed to keep living.  ‘Dealing with the Devil’ so-to-speak, while his closest friends speak of his final days and the darkness that would often creep in after his fatal diagnosis, and Ralph’s inner-most fear of the ‘Man in Black’ …

Phil Davison, himself a talented and inwardly-thinking musician, sings the blues in his definitively hoarse, morose and poetic style. But with doses of dry humour that make the journey that little more entertaining.  The tracks ‘Embryonic Blues’ and ‘Hotel’ being such examples of his signature style of story-telling.

He films this documentary right up until Eades’s final days on his death-bed, echoing the sound of the deepest roots of the Mississippi as he sings of redemption and salvation, right here, in our backyard of N.Z  – while the fiddles and guitars of his backing group unite in the name of Gospel, this performance being a tribute to his dear friend and mentor, and a promise to him, he vowed to keep.

‘Dealing With The Devil’,  was at times quite an undertaking to follow, with the sadness and decline of someone suffering from an incurable illness.   However, I enjoyed the philosophical essence of the film as a whole, and found it absorbing with it’s visual content, as well as it’s welcoming moments of humour, that provided refreshment from the dark subject matter.  With an uplifting sense of peace towards the end, it is a loving tribute to a man who has lived his life to the brim and his wish to leave a lasting legacy that truly reflects who he was/is.

Ralph Bennett Eades had a wicked sense of humour as he clearly demonstrates,  even from his death-bed, with a mischievous hoax that defies gravity …

***3.5 Stars!

 

 

 

 

“Dealin with the Devil’ – is now showing in Auckland at the following times:

Loft / Thu 31 May 8:30PM
Rangatira / Fri 1 June 4:30PM