Daily News header

Jean-Michel Basquiat Film Review

By     get stories by email

Bio-Pic Recounts Brash Artist's Meteoric Rise and Untimely Demise

Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) was born in Brooklyn to a Puerto Rican mother and a father of Haitian extraction. Blessed with a rebellious nature, he ran away from home a lot during adolescence, finally leaving for good at 17. Moving to Manhattan, he dropped out of school to fritter away his days spray-painting his alias, "Samo," all over the place, because as he put it, "The whole object of doing graffiti is fame."

Fortunately, some well-connected folks in the high-priced art world recognized that Jean-Michel actually had some talent and convinced the kid to go legit. He agreed to give it a try, and watched with amazement as his paintings rapidly escalated in price from $200 to $30,000 a piece. It wasn't long before he found himself rubbing elbows with celebrated icons like Andy Warhol and Julian Schnabel.

Some people can handle such overnight success, but Jean-Michel wasn't one of them. Because he was making way more money than any of his friends and hangers-on, he got a swelled head and decided to serve as the fulcrum of a non-stop, substance-abusing party which eventually culminated with a heroin overdose in his studio at the age of 27.

All of the above, plus his arresting array of hairstyles ranging from sumo wrestler to Mohawk to weed-wacker, are amply illustrated in Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child, a cautionary documentary about the downside of having it all. Basquiat was already the subject of a dramatization of his life directed by pal Schnabel and starring Jeffrey Wright.

What make this flick a real treat is seeing file footage of the bombastic iconoclast in all his glory before he bottomed out on smack. Too bad he didn't have that one person in his entourage he could trust to pull his coattails about the dangers of intravenous drug use. But hey, if he were still alive, there might not be any Basquiat mystique for the upscale auction houses to capitalize on.

In certain circles, it's still better to flameout than to fade away.

Excellent (4 stars)
Unrated
Running time: 90 Minutes
Distributor: Arthouse Films

To see a trailer for Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child, click play:

Kam Williams is a syndicated film and book critic who writes for 100+ publications. He is a member of the New York Film Critics Online, the African-American Film Critics Association, and the NAACP Image Awards Nominating Committee. Contact him through NewsBlaze.

  Please click this get stories by email button to be notified about future stories, and please leave a comment below.

  Please leave a comment here     If it does not display within 10 seconds, please refresh the page

Related Movie Reviews News

Marion Cotillard, who is no stranger to tackling complex characters and complicated women in movies, most notably as Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose, plays Sandra in Two Days, One Night. An emotionally vulnerable blue collar worker in a plant determine
Stevie Nicks, older and ever bolder turned heads with Stevie's back-to-the-future, pre-technoid selfies at an opening exhibition in the Morrison Hotel Gallery, Manhattan.
Michael Pena, who first appeared in 'To Sir, with Love' and 'End of Watch' director David Ayer talk to Kam Williams about reuniting to collaborate on Fury.
Rosamund Pike stopped by the NY Film Festival where Gone Girl premiered, to weigh in on assorted relevant topics, with Prairie Miller.
The groundbreaking shorts incorporate drama, nonfiction, animation and comedy, and feature cameos from Sarah Silverman, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph and others.
Movie reviewer Kam Williams Interviews Boris Kodjoe about his new movie, 'Addicted'.

 

NewsBlaze Writers Of The Month



Popular Stories This Month

newsletter logo

NewsBlaze
Copyright © 2004-2014 NewsBlaze Pty. Ltd.
Use of this website is subject to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy  | DMCA Notice               Press Room   |    Visit NewsBlaze Mobile Site