Full disclosure - I was offered a review copy of the film. Another full disclosure - I love Basquiat's art work. So needless to say I was happy to receive my DVD in the mail yesterday and was anxious to view it. And I was prepared to be a stern critic of it should it be less than spectacular. Happily, I can honestly say that the film is excellent and I expect to watch it again and again.
For those who do not know much about Basquiat, the film offers a rich and intensive look at his work not only through the eyes of friends, lovers, curators, collectors and gallary owners but also from Basquiat himself. For those who know the legend that was J-M B, the film will give you a rare glimpse of him in his own words and also gives you a psychological back-drop to his ultimately destructive behavior. Who knows? You may even learn something totally new about the artist in the process. I for one did not know that Jean-Michel sold his first painting to Debbie Harry for $200. I also did not quite recall the juggernaut time line of his art world ascent. Only two years! I feel like a schlepper in comparison.
Film creator and director Tamra Davis includes her raw footage of personal interviews with Basquiat from the 1980s when they were friends. In the bonus feature on the DVD there is an uncut interview with Davis where she spoke about her internal struggle with these interview tapes. She did not want to exploit the memory of Jean-Michel but after 20 years, was convinced that this was a good time to open up her archives and share these precious never-before-seen interviews publicly.
As someone who experienced NYC in the 1970s and 1980s I loved the historical footage of the East Village and the Lower East Side of that time that helped to imform Basquait's street art cred. And I also loved seeing the interviews with Julian Schnabel and photos of Keith Haring who was a one degree of separation acquaintence of mine as well as the very first street artist I saw "in action" at the 14th St uptown F train stop in the early 80s one weekday morning.
The title of the film is from the title of the first major art review article about Basquiat's work. He was the Radiant Child whose prolific work (over 100 paintings) helped transcend the concept of street art into high art.
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