Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child
This illuminating, comprehensive documentary focuses on the life and work of Jean-Michel Basquiat, an African-American painter who rose to fame at the age of 23 in 1983 and died of a drug overdose 5 years later. His artworks were groundbreaking at the time because he externalized his political and social views so uniquely and poetically, even when it came to his graffiti art. The paintings and graffiti works were expressionistic and combined pop culture in such a way that highlighted his brilliance as a visionary, talented artist. Not everyone appreciated the value of his artworks right away, though---in fact, MoMA rejected his paintings for their gallery at the time. Nonetheless, Basquiat continued to paint and to gain fame while becoming friends with Andy Warhol who, in many ways, became like a fatherly figure to him and offered him support. Director Tamra Davis blends intimate, revealing interview footage of Basquiat, her good friend, as well as candid interviews with a wide variety of individuals who knew him: curators, art dealers, gallery owners, artists and even his former girlfriend, Suzanne Mallouk. The archival, never-before-seen interviews with Basquiat show how articulate, intelligent, impassioned, honest, humble and charismatic he was both as an artist and as a human being. Basquiat explains how he dropped out of high school, ran away from home, and, while homeless, he walked around the streets of New York sometimes for a few days without sleeping. He could still paint while others watched him, but he worked much more efficiently whenever he worked alone. Davis essentially gets inside Basquiat’s head more so than any other filmmaker has been able to accomplish. By the time Basquiat’s friends explain how his newfound fame had changed his lifestyle for the worse, you’ll understand not only the “how” part, but also the “why” part, and be able to sympathize with him as he spiraled down the dog-eat-dog art industry with his subsequent drug addiction and depression. At a running time of 1 hour and 30 minutes, Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child is a candid, engaging and comprehensive documentary filled with revealing and fascinating interviews.
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