Basquiat, Directed by Julian Schnabel
Miramax Films, August 9, 1996 (US)
Screenplay: Julian Schnabel, based on the story by John Bowe
Starring: Jeffrey Wright, Michael Wincott, Benicio Del Toro, Claire Forlani, David Bowie, Dennis Hopper, and Gary Oldman
The clouds look like horses or buildings, profiles of faces or states. Today I saw a guitar. What did you see? A star?
Rene Ricard (Michael Wincott): God, I saw that painting. I’m ashamed to own anything … so, Sam-o.
Jean-Michel Basquiat (Jeffrey Wright): Samo.
Rene: Samo, you got a real name?
Jean: Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Rene: Well that sounds famous already!
A goal of art is to grant access, perhaps to a place, a memory, an old world, a make believe world, the world of today, or maybe even something more abstract, like an emotion. The artist takes a risk in deciding to show anything at all. It is a brave thing to hope that an audience will exist at all let alone be moved in such a way that some kind of response will be elicited. But ultimately, audience or no audience, it wouldn’t stop the need to create. Inspiration gives rise to an overwhelming need to create.
But if the artist is good enough, or perhaps lucky enough, the audience does exist. The audience is there, sitting on the other side of the looking glass. What do they see? Turn the cover of a book and begin. Help yourself. Head to a movie theater, go inside. Look at this painting. Enter. It is a blind leap of faith. The exchange of worlds is a mind morph. It can be so many things: funny, amusing, boring, tranquil, scary, sad, deeply moving. There are even times when what is seen or felt miraculously mirrors what is already being projected in the theater of their own minds. That kind of kinetic connection can provide a rush of validation and a powerful trigger of emotions, but connection or not, to be able to enter the mind of another remains a most precious invitation.
There you are, back again in a seat in the grand old theater in the Fine Arts in Chicago as you leap down from the balcony and enter into the world of Julian Schnabel’s stunning film, Basquiat. It is a film that grants access to the mind of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Through Jean-Michel’s eyes, we see life as a continuous stream of visual stimulation filtered onto to a canvas in bursting reflections of raw emotion and honesty.
The need to create. A film about a painter. A loving tribute. Jean-Michel Basquiat (through painting) and Julian Schnabel (through film) grant access to their domain of dreams and leave behind emergency generators to be tapped as needed. Flip the switch and you are transported.
Bruno, I dunno. It really is good, isn’t it, Bruno?