May 15, 2010
I am very weary when it comes to critics as well as the masses celebrating any type of “exotic” colored art as some type of real revolutionary artistic achievement. Due to the lack of cultural accomplishments from the Third World, it seems that anything that resembles “art” is considered a piece of profound artistic achievement by self-loathing white art critics. To be honest, I cannot really think of any colored art that has ever truly caught my fancy. I will have to admit however that after seeing the film Basquiat, I believe there might be exceptions to my view. Jean-Michel Basquiat was apparently the first black painter to ever become an international art star. Mr. Basquiat was considered a Neo-expressionist painter and with his paintings it is obvious he created a hybrid of European expressionism and Afro-Caribbean aesthetic, a true Neo-Creole painter if one were to ever exist. As dramatized in the film Basquiat, Jean-Michel was criticized by agitating critics for what they saw as “exploiting” black urban poverty due to his middle class upbringing. I guess Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s paintings should also be discredited due to the fact that the Dutch painter did not live up to the same pathetic reputation as the peasant subjects he painted, even though he helped to immortalize their meager existences.
Like most real artists, Jean-Michel Basquiat led a fairly pathetic and tortured existence and like Adolf Hitler before him, Basquiat made a meagerly artistic living by selling hand painted postcards for sympathetic patrons. It was not until Andy Warhol started promoting Basquiat that the artist started receiving the international fame that he reluctantly craved. In the film Basquiat, David Bowie plays an extra spacey and faggy Andy Warhol, a successful performance no doubt. Although I very much enjoyed Crispin Glover’s cameo as parody-like version of Andy Warhol in Oliver Stone’s The Doors, I think David Bowie did a better job expressing the true character of American’s favorite Pop “Artist.” The chemistry between Jeffrey Wright (who plays Basquiat) and David Bowie is no doubt believable but also notable. Other excellent performances include a cameo by the disgusting rock-slut Courtney Love (who plays Madonna, a former girlfriend of Basquiat) and loveable burnt out weirdo Dennis Hopper as Swiss art collector Bruno Bischofberger. In general, most performances in Basquiat were excellently cast with the right actor for the right job.
Basquiat was the cinematic debut of Neo-expressionist painter Julian Schnabel, who was part of the same art movement as Basquiat in real-life. I believe this gives the film a feeling of authenticity that could not have been accomplished by a director who had not known Basquiat personally. For a first film, Schnabel certainly accomplished more than most novice directors. Of course, Basquiat has its weakness like most bio-pics do. After the film is over, it feels that segments of Basquiat’s life were brushed over (which they no doubt where), but director Julian Schnabel was able to makeup for this with the unconventional assemblage of the film. The real power of Basquiat lies in the power of each scene, for the film is truly the sum of all it’s parts just as Basquiat’s paintings are.
Viewing Basquiat was kind of a wonderful surprise to me. I expected the film to be some sob story about how a persecuted Negro rose above his urban ghetto limitations and proved that he could be part of the international white art world. Instead, the film shows how a bunch of lame white people kissed Basquiat’s ass because he knew how to hold a paint brush which seemed to ultimately push him towards self-destruction. Basquiat is not a feel good crock of cultural Marxist vomit but an expressive tribute from one Neo-expressionist to another. Certainly a film that does not romanticize the life of an artist like most that come out of Hollywood.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 4:43 PM
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