All by Myself: The Eartha Kitt Story. 1982. USA. Directed by Christian Blackwood. With Eartha Kitt, Kitt Shapiro. DCP. 87 min.
When Eartha Kitt takes the stage in this midcareer portrait, she doesn’t sing a song so much as live it. Emanating from every underlying muscle, from her brow to her pointed toes, Kitt’s unrelenting physicality and undulating voice animate each performance, as she seamlessly weaves personal musings into her campy renditions. Revealing Kitt to be as comfortable schmoozing at galas in sequins and fur as she is makeup-free and sporting a disarmingly cute bullfrog T-shirt in her sunlit kitchen, this documentary follows Kitt to every corner of her professional and private life. From enduring a traumatic deep-South upbringing to being blacklisted and investigated by the FBI for fearlessly criticizing America’s presence in Vietnam at a 1968 White House luncheon, Kitt exemplified her own aphorism: “If you don’t want the challenge, you have no business being here.” Kitt’s convictions are inextricable from her charisma and sense of humor; one can’t help but imagine at least a dash of mischief when she sings “I Want to be Evil” at Ronald Reagan’s inaugural ball. Though the film suggests that loneliness is an inevitable product of such singularity, Kitt seems to embrace solitude as a source of freedom, a space in which to define herself through self-invention and self-love.