Tuesday, January 16, 2007
After seeing Art School Confidential I became interested in researching how art is portrayed film-wise. I saw Ed Harris in Pollock a while back but never saw Basquiat for some reason. Schnabel’s film is a real rags to riches story about the early eighty’s wunderkind It is a straight forward morality tale that doesn’t end well. Sort of rock and roll really and I’m not sure if it rings true or not. I suspect that given the celebrity lineup even in cameos that it is a too Hollywood to be an honest depiction. Wilhem Defoe has a small part as an electrician and Christopher Walken plays a journalist for about 3 minutes! The time is sure interesting and I am wondering about the Basquiat/Warhol relationship. Basquiat died one year after Warhol oddly enough and I have a vague memory of seeing a show of work they made together. The film made in 96 already has the notion that art is only made to sell in the opposite way from the Van Gogh myth of the starving misunderstood genius. Remember Kirk Douglas going mad in a straw hat? I prefer the Alec Guinness sort of con-man/alcoholic/genius artist in the Horse’s Mouth, a little gem way before Star Wars. Now that I’m on the subject of morality, what about The Portrait of Dorian Gray? I saw that on PBS recently. Dorian sells his soul for everlasting life and what a drag that turned out to be. It’s basically a Victorian horror film which brings me back to the art world. The Soho boom of the 80’s petered out with a recession but those swinging days are nothing compared to what is going on now. Perhaps the figures aren’t looming as large, but there are more of them. You even see a little of the ancient New Image inflections returning now and again. After seeing Basquiat, I watched Downtown 81, a nearly plotless romp which caught the street mood better, including the bad acting and excellent glimpses of bands like Tuxedo Moon and the Plastics. That was worth the price of rental on its own. Still, no film maker has ever caught that sixties/seventies Me-Generation evolving into a major New Wave Party. The music was rich and it is ripe for parody. Just watch out for the water bugs on Avenue B.