Thoughts on Basquiat

Sunday, June 13, 2010 12:41 PM By Simon

-A biopic of Jean-Michel Basquiat, the Warhol-approved graffiti artist and painter, considered the first 'important black artist', who died at 27 (ahem). Starring Jeffrey Wright as the eponymous, Gary Oldman as Albert Milo, a thinly veiled Julian Schnabel, David Bowie as Andy Warhol, and Dannis Hopper as Bruno Bischofberger, with Parker Posey as Mary Boone, Courtney Love, Benicio del Toro, Michael Wincott, Claire Forlani, Tatum O'Neal, Willem Dafoe, Christopher Walken, and a bunch of other people.

-Okay, the thing is, this is a very visually appealing movie. But it's paper-thin. You never get under Basquat's skin. He's just there. Things just happen, with no apparent motivation. The film revels in its supporting cast, Gary Oldman as a maybe-gay, maybe-not artist friend of Basquat's, Dennis Hopper, David Bowie, it can't get over it. No, in fact, Julian Schnable, director, is enraptured with his own likeness, Gary Oldman, as Brooks Adams put it, "[it] should be more appropriately called My Basquiat". You'll find yourself caring about Jean-Michel by default, rather than any real characterization. Nothing is made clear about anyone, years pass without consequence. It took me an hour in to realize that the plot had actually started, that this wasn't still the setup.

-Nonetheless, the performances are appropriately top. David Bowie, for instance, gets Warhol down pat, the swagger and all that. Gary Oldman is entertaining, but hardly there. Jeffrey Wright, I should say, is amazing as the title character, charismatic and fascinating. He creates more tension and interest in his character than the screenplay did.

-Visuals, too, are lovely.

-The end was very abrupt, but I liked it.

-Nice Sunday.


Alex said...

Perfect summary- great performances but little depth in the script. It's too bad, really. I enjoyed it for the cast and the subject matter though.

Plus, David Bowie as Andy Warhol: that is just too cool!

June 13, 2010 at 8:14 PM
Robert said...

When I saw "Parker Posey" I immediately wanted to see this movie! I'll have to check it out.

June 13, 2010 at 9:18 PM
Sam Turner said...

I haven't heard anything about this but am now suitably intrigued.

June 14, 2010 at 2:38 AM
SugaryCynic said...

damn what a cast, need to put this on my list

June 14, 2010 at 4:48 AM
Ruben Romero said...

I think the idea was that the depth of Basquiat is supposed to come from the artwork and the video-artsy stuffs

June 17, 2010 at 1:49 PM