Friday, January 29, 2010

Sundance Films: Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child

Title: Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child
Director: Tamra Davis
Website: no individual site, but click here for Sundance page

Summary: In his short career, Jean-Michel Basquiat was a phenomenon. He became notorious for his graffiti art under the moniker Samo in the late 1970s on the Lower East Side scene, sold his first painting to Deborah Harry for $200, and became best friends with Andy Warhol. Appreciated by both the art cognoscenti and the public, Basquiat was launched into international stardom. However, soon his cult status began to override the art that had made him famous in the first place. Director Tamra Davis pays homage to her friend in this definitive documentary but also delves into Basquiat as an iconoclast. His dense, bebop-influenced neoexpressionist work emerged while minimalist, conceptual art was the fad; as a successful black artist, he was constantly confronted by racism and misconceptions. Much can be gleaned from insider interviews and archival footage, but it is Basquiat’s own words and work that powerfully convey the mystique and allure of both the artist and the man (Sundance).

Thoughts: Those who make documentaries about their friends and relatives (whether famous or not) tend to fall into two camps: either really good or awful. There is no middle ground when you put your emotions into a film and this holds especially true for documentaries. I don’t know much about Jean-Michel Basquiat, but his story sounds interesting. Be forewarned, this may be the type of film that requires preexisting knowledge of the subject to truly understand.

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