Directed by: Tamra Davis
Produced by: David Koh, Lilly Bright, Stanley Buchthal, Alexis Spraic
Run Time: 88 Min
I’ll be honest with you; I think most modern art is pure rubbish. The last time I went to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art was with my mom for her birthday to see a Yoko Ono exhibit. As I explored the museum, I found 3 blank canvases, a painting with some squiggly lines that you would see in a day care and a toilet in a glass maze which were all being debated by young people wearing sweaters that their grandparents gave them. Needless to say, I left the museum annoyed that I had wasted a day supporting talentless hacks and at the same time been forced to endure the sounds of people debating the social value of the “masterpieces” I had just seen. It didn’t take much time for me to realize the popularity of modern art, like the taste of wine(check out the studies showing how people think wine that costs more tastes better), is more subject to reputation and hype than it is actual talent. Why do I start off a review telling you about my opinion of modern art? I’m telling you because Jean Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child is a journey into the modern art community and basically reinforces whatever you already thought about modern art. If you’re an avid art buff you’ll think the film is touching and if you’re like me, it’ll solidify your predisposition that artists and art critics are complete snobby asses.
Jean Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child chronicles the rise and fall of Jean Basquiat starting from the time he left home in search of fame. The backbone of the film is a rare interview of Basquiat that his friend and director of the film Tamra Davis shot of him at the height of his career over 20 years ago. The movie is also packed with interviews with his friends and colleagues who either dated, worked or sold his art. The documentary itself feels more like tribute to the too short life of troubled Basquiat who some consider “the most influential artist of his generation.”
Tamra Davis has been directing movies for years and her experience shows with how well the documentary is produced and directed. Even though I’m not a fan of the artist, I am a fan of how the movie was structured. The music that played throughout the film fits perfectly and though I wasn’t wearing a beret was able to thoroughly enjoy it. The movie mixed archived footage with recent interviews seamlessly giving the film a terrific flow which kept it entertaining throughout its duration.
Perhaps my favorite aspect of the film is unsaid commentary of how fame and wealth effects people and their relationships. Basquiat seemed to be more stable in the beginning of the movie, when he was a young struggling artist, than he was after he achieved his goal of being famous which is something we see with celebrities in general. It’s an all too common tragedy when people achieve their dream but forget those little things that make life worth living, namely friends, family and what inspired them dream in the first place.
Jean Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child does everything well, the story is seamless, the editing is superb and it’s a perfect film for those people who appreciate modern art. My only complaints about the movie are personal ones derived from my intense dislike of the subject matter and my own personal opinion of the modern art culture. This movie did absolutely nothing to make me question or change my opinion but, since it’s more of a tribute to the artist, it doesn’t have to. Again, I’ll be honest with you; while the subject isn’t for me, it still makes for a very good watch and is perfect for just about anyone who likes modern art or documentaries in general.