As a subject matter, the trials and tribulations of dancers may not seem the most promising. While I am no student of this genre, if there be such, movies such as 'Yankee Doodle Dandy' and 'The Red Shoes' tend to be sedate, comforting affairs.

Jesco White is however, no ordinary dancer, so it’s best we all know what we are talking about so you go off, type his name into YouTube and come straight back and I will be waiting.

Good. So you see Jesco White is, to utilise the nomenclature of the critical trade, a shit dancer. You could argue this is a culturally relative assertion and generally I would agree. But, if you have seen the same sorry, pelvis popping, geriatric tap dancing I saw, you will agree there is simply no other judgement to make. Yet it is still compelling, perhaps in the way Jerry Springer is, perhaps because in times when everything seems so contrived, this is at least real. Frighteningly so.

'White Lightnin’ is not the first time White’s life has been filmed. With two documentaries (plus an appearance in Beck’s 'Loser' video) already made his life is certainly extreme enough to justify this. But here, director Dominic Murphy takes an already picaresque tale and turns it into some approaching a fantasy slasher movie. There’s reality, the early years of sniffing petrol for kicks, reform school and general chaos, slightly controlled by an inorduction to dancing by his beloved father. It is his father’s murder by a couple of drunken hillbillys that causes the film to veer somewhere away, one hopes, from reality. En route, he picks up a fabulous Carrie Fisher, playing Jesco’s older lover who makes the sensible decision to leave a husband and kids to live with a hard drinking tap dancer who takes recourse to firearms when he doesn’t like the way she cooks his eggs.

I made the mistake of seeing 'Antichrist' a couple of days before this and found the scenes of self-mutilation equally disturbing in both. At least 'White Lightnin' wasn’t preceded by a couple of hours of mind numbing boredom before the blood started to flow. Quite the opposite in fact. Edward Hogg as Jesco is charismatic, a good bad dancer and catches the fleeting excitement of a chaotic, drug fuelled life while always being ready to show the fall into desperation. Much of the music is as out of control as Jesco’s life and gives the film an extra patina of urgency and madness. Most notable are the contributions of Hasil Adkins, a near neighbour of Jesco’s in Boone County in West Virginian Appalachia. A genuine rock 'n' roll pioneer, Adkins contribution to the early spawning of rock ‘n’ roll is much overlooked. This is perhaps in consequence of his habit of singing about decapitating women, as in the electrifying 'No More Hotdogs' that is at the sonic heart of the movie’s concluding fantasy scenes.

'White Lightnin’ is an odd one. Part exploitation of one of the last groups we are allowed to ridicule (white trash, trailer trash, etc) and part grand fantasy of revenge, it is not going to be everyone’s cup of moonshine. But from the early depiction of a delinquent life to Jesco’s surreal, and frankly unbelievable even though it’s true, success as a cult dancer, the film is mesmerising, thanks in no small part to an excellent soundtrack.







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