SXSW 2019: Mr. Jimmy

Akio Sakurai as "MR. JIMMY" performs the "Heartbreaker" solo in the style of the 1973 live version, wearing the same shirt and custom-cobbled shoes that Mr. Jimmy Page wore on that historic American tour. Credit: Akio Sakurai is MR. JIMMY

Mr. Jimmy portrays the efforts of one devoted Led Zeppelin super fan in his efforts to perfectly recreate their music on the stage.

For all intents and purposes, Akio Sakurai is the very definition of a super fan.  It’s not just about getting the music right but he truly goes overboard.  Even the costumes must be absolutely perfect right down to their creases.  But at what cost is Akio willing to go if it means recreating the rock music on stage?  Will it be worth it to just move to LA even though it isn’t a sure thing?

Listen, everyone has their passion and I get that.  What we have in Mr. Jimmy is one man’s dedication to playing led Zeppelin’s music for audiences.  We’re not talking about what we here on the studio albums.  What Akio seeks to do is recreate the live performances note for note.  I’m not going to lie in that this is pretty ambitious.  He’s done this for a solid 30 years or so in Tokyo clubs.  Granted, the man also had a day job selling kimonos.  Director Peter Michael Dowd follows this process every step of the way.  We learn how Akio became such a big fan of Jimmy Page.

Things change when Akio sets his sights on America.  It soon becomes a question of whether other Zeppelin fans will see things in the same light?  The answer to this–well, it’s both yes and no.  Not everyone is going to agree with him.  In fact, he joins members of the long-running Led Zepagain.  There’s just one tiny problem.  His mission to recreate every note as Led Zeppelin previously performed means that not everyone is going to be in agreement.  Will long-time members of this cover band quit?  You’ll just have to tune in and see.

Most musicians in cover bands are practically happy just being able to play their favorite songs.  This isn’t the case with Akio.  When he’s on stage, there’s no trace of Akio at all.  No, he’s full-on honoring the legacy of Jimmy Page when he sets out on stage.  He goes as far as hiring Rie Nakahara as a costume designer in order to help him sell the act.  It isn’t just this but even the creases must appear as they did during the concerts!  Completely insane, right?

If you’re a fan of Led Zeppelin or this particular era of classic rock in general, you’ll be sure to enjoy Mr. Jimmy.  It’s quite the inside look at one man’s attempt to take cover bands to the next level.

DIRECTOR:  Peter Michael Dowd
FEATURING:  Akio Sakurai, Rie Nakahara, Kiyomi Osawa, Junko Sakurai, Shinji Kishimoto, Atsushi Iwasaki, Naoki Washida, Makoto Fukano, Kiyo Yokoseki, Hiroshi Kokai

Mr. Jimmy holds its world premiere during the 2019 SXSW Film Festival in the 24 Beats Per Second program. Grade: 3.5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.