.

Basquiat

Jeffrey Wright, David Bowie, Dennis Hopper, Gary Oldman, Christopher Walken

Directed by Julian Schnabel
Rolling Stone: star rating
5 0
Community: star rating
5 0 0
August 9, 1996

Poor, black and 21 when he hit it large on the very white New York art scene in 1981, Jean-Michel Basquiat, who died of a drug overdose in 1988, had a tortured life and a high regard for his controversial work. Artist Julian Schnabel, no stranger to ego or controversy, is the debuting writer and director who thought he could tell Basquiat's story better than a Hollywood hack.

He has. Jeffrey Wright is magnetic and moving as Jean-Michel. David Bowie finds the loneliness in Andy Warhol that linked him to Jean-Michel. Gary Oldman is a Schnabel-like artist. Others include Dennis Hopper as an art dealer, Courtney Love as a groupie and Christopher Walken, who is mesmeric as an interviewer. Even the fakery — a Jean-Michel romance with a composite lover (Claire Forlani) — is forged with flair.

Schnabel excels with Jean-Michel in his studio — music blaring, pals chatting — as he calmly paints a huge, empty canvas. It's a Herculean task done with daunting ease. Most movies stress the agony of art (think of Kirk Douglas' Van Gogh in Lust for Life). Schnabel's exceptional film honors his friend by showing the act of creation as a natural high. Life tormented Basquiat, not art. In Basquiat, the gift just pours out.

ADD A COMMENT

Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...

COMMENTS

Sort by:
    Read More

    Movie Reviews

    More Reviews »
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.

    X

    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “American Girl”

    Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

    It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

    More Song Stories entries »
    www.expandtheroom.com