Ethan Hawke spot­lights lit­tle-known leg­end in ‘Blaze’

Texarkana Gazette - - METRO / STATE - By Lind­sey Bahr

LOS ANGELES—Ethan Hawke had long been en­chanted by the songs of mys­te­ri­ous singer-song­writer Blaze Fo­ley. Fo­ley wrote songs like 'If I Could Only Fly," that Wil­lie Nel­son cov­ered and would go on to be­come a Merle Hag­gard hit, and "Clay Pi­geons," which John Prine cov­ered. Townes Van Zandt and Lucinda Wil­liams wrote songs about him af­ter his death at age 39— he was shot in 1989. And yet his is a name that few out­side of the Austin mu­sic scene would know.

This could change with the re­lease of "Blaze," now play­ing in lim­ited re­lease, which Hawke di­rected and co-wrote and ap­pears in briefly as a ra­dio jour­nal­ist dis­cov­er­ing the leg­end of Fo­ley along with the au­di­ence. It would take Austin Chron­i­cle co-founder Louis Black to re­ally help Hawke crack the story.

Black asked Hawke if he had read Fo­ley's wife's book.

Hawke re­sponded: "Blaze had a wife?"

It was Sy­bil Rosen's story, and mem­oir "Liv­ing in the Woods in a Treehouse: Re­mem­ber­ing Blaze Fo­ley," that would pro­vide the ba­sis for the film and its ex­plo­ration of his early years (yes, in a treehouse) to his de­cline. Once Fo­ley's muse, Rosen, who co-wrote "Blaze" has found that he is her muse as well.

"He didn't know how to tell Blaze's story. He didn't want to do a story about dere­lic­tion or ad­dic­tion," Rosen said. "One of the things I love about the telling of the movie is that sad­ness, sor­row and loss are tremen­dous muses, but they're not the only muses good art can flow from. I wanted to make the point that it was joy and love and na­ture that un­locked his cre­ativ­ity and not all this loss and sor­row that was to come."

Rosen is played by "Ar­rested De­vel­op­ment" ac­tress Alia Shawkat, and Fo­ley by new­comer Ben Dickey, who is him­self a singer-song­writer. The film, which pre­miered at the Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val, boasts a rare 100 per­cent on Rot­ten Toma­toes.

"Blaze" is not, as Hawke and Rosen like to say, "a Wikipedia page" but more of an ex­pres­sion of Fo­ley in all of his forms whether de­scrib­ing the mer­its of be­ing a leg­end ver­sus be­ing a star ("stars burn just for them­selves"), or of­fend­ing ev­ery­one with drunken antics in the record­ing stu­dio.

"There some lines in Blaze's songs that shat­ter me," Hawke said in a re­cent in­ter­view. "And they're so sim­ple, it's like a Matisse paint­ing.

"The movie is dis­guised as a biopic. It's not re­ally a biopic," Hawke said. "It's a love story about hu­man cre­ativ­ity . ... For me, he's telling the leg­end of a lot of peo­ple who are met with in­dif­fer­ence. Peo­ple whose cre­ativ­ity is real and vi­brant and a part of what­ever col­lec­tive con­scious­ness we have as a com­mu­nity."

For Rosen, it's been a cathar­tic ex­pe­ri­ence.

"I'm end­lessly amazed by the im­pact that he has had on my life and con­tin­ues to have. How of­ten do you get to fall in love with the same per­son three times?" Rosen said. "Peo­ple ask what Blaze would think of the movie. I feel like he would say, 'I told you so. I told you this was go­ing to hap­pen.'"

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