Wednesday, April 28, 2010
When You Try to Leave We'll Keep You
Last night, I headed uptown to the MOMA for the New York premiere of "Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child," hosted by exciting new LVMH site Nowness. The screening was particularly well-attended with the likes of Alicia Keys, Chris Rock, Julian Schnabel, and Lily Donaldson in the audience. But more importantly, the film was completely fascinating. I had known of Basquiat before, and appreciated his work, but I left the museum last night with a newfound, full-blown obsession.
Basquiat was the kind of tortured, lost, determined young talent that can't help but leave a legacy behind. The film captured that in rare, never-before-seen video footage taken by a close friend, director Tamra Davis, over 20 years ago. It also features interviews with colleagues, friends, and lovers of Basquiat, all of whom share a certain mix of melancholy and awe when it comes to the topic of their deceased friend. Watching footage of Basquiat, you can see why. He was captivating to watch--surprisingly shy and soft-spoken, often stumbling a little over his words, and rarely looking directly at the camera, he always remained a bit of mystery. He seemed sad most of the time, a little misplaced.
By the end of the film, I was admittedly weepy when it addressed his isolation and disappointment, and his ultimately tragic end (Basquiat died of a heroin overdose in his NYC studio in 1988 at the age of 27). But that's the beauty of Davis' work: it gives the audience a close-up, starkly intimate glimpse into Basquiat's life; so much so, that by the end his death felt a little like a personal loss. The movie opens on July 21st at the Film Forum in NYC.