The Torch Review: Buddy Guy Lives To Help The Blues Carry On


To say Buddy Guy, now 85, lives for the blues is an understatement, as anyone who knows his impulsive, magnetic way with chords, lyrics and stage presence can attest. The fact that the guitar legend from Chicago also has to experience the blues live is the focus of “The Torch”, a documentary by Jim Farrell.

But, to take the film at its word, that knowledge — the influence of Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker, filtered through Guy’s outspoken, ahead of his time style — will live on in a pale, sweet-faced, blues-loving boy named Quinn Sullivan from New Bedford, Mass. Sullivan was 8 when he was first invited on stage with Guy, who was duly impressed by the classic licks coming out of a prodigy with old-soul chops. Since then, the two have toured frequently together, and Sullivan is now a recording artist himself.

It’s a beautiful tale of master and protégé, and in many scenes the connection between the irrepressible, humorous Guy and the quiet, observant Sullivan seems genuine. Of course, there’s also plenty of music to enjoy as Guy rocks the stage at his Chicago club. But Sullivan’s growing up as a teenager, a key theme, isn’t nearly as interesting as listening to Guy tell tales of the tough road from being a tenant’s son in Louisiana to recording with giants, and still having to have a job to make ends meet get.

Plus, contextual framing feels problematic when the majority of non-guy screen time exploring the legacy of this African-American-created art form, as embodied in its oldest surviving standard-bearer, is given to white interviewees. Nothing against these guy-worshippers’ dedication to the blues, but the lack of black voices on The Torch — as performers, pundits, or fans — seems underappreciated, to say the least.

‘The torch’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 49 minutes

Play: Begins March 28, Laemmle Royal, West Los Angeles

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/movies/story/2022-03-17/review-the-torch-documentary-buddy-guy-quinn-sullivan The Torch Review: Buddy Guy Lives To Help The Blues Carry On

Caroline Bleakley

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