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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 heads or horses, Buildings or states. Today I saw a guitar. What did you see? A cloud 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, 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 exposing his work and vulnerabilities in kind. It is brave to attempt to elicit a response or to presume an audience will care, not dismiss, or even exist at all. But ultimately, audience or no audience, it wouldn’t stop the need to create. Inspiration gives rise to an overwhelming need.

But if the artist is good enough, or lucky enough, the audience will exist. They will be right there, on the other side of the looking glass. And what will they see? Turn the cover of a book and begin. Help yourself. Head to a movie theater, go inside. Enter a museum and gaze into a painting. 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 such symbiosis or not, it remain a most precious invitation when an artist unlocks the door, extending an open path, a welcoming entry.

There you are, back again in a seat of the grand old theater in the Fine Arts Building in Chicago as you leap down from the balcony and enter into the world of Julian Schnabel’s stunning film Basquiat. It is an offering that by extension also grants access to the mind of its subject, 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 unfiltered honesty.

The need to create. An artist and his canvas. Jean-Michel Basquiat (through painting) and Julian Schnabel (through film) open wide their domain of dreams. Prepare to be transported.

Bruno, I dunno. It really is good, isn’t it, Bruno?