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Hockney - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Directing: B+
Writing: B+
Cinematography: B+
Editing: A-

How have I never heard of David Hockney before today? The man is still alive, 78 years old, and apparently a longstanding, well established painter and photographer who contributed largely to the Pop Art movement of the 1960s. I suppose he was outshined by Andy Warhol, but based on the countless pieces shown in the documentary Hockney, frankly I think Warhol's stuff was inferior to Hockney's. But, that's just me. I went to this movie today simply because I had nothing better to do, and left planning to visit a bookstore to find a volume of his works. That's literally never happened to me before, a documentary having that kind of effect on me: I have to find this guy's work! I want it on my coffee table!

And so it goes, once again, with a film about a historical figure, contemporary or not, fictionalized or not: it's not going to be for everyone. David Hockney is an old man now so I'm not sure how many young people any reviewers are going to get interested in this artist, let alone my single review that likely reaches a single-digit number of readers. (Maybe two digits? I can hope!) The crowd in the theatre where I saw this movie, while mixed, definitely skewed toward the elderly.

I was a little torn when it came to the image I wanted to use for this review. Consider the piece below: Two Boys in a Pool, Hollywood, 1965. It's not going to be difficult to come to conclusions as to why it speaks to me -- but such conclusions would only be partially correct. There really is something about Hockney's style, his use of color, and in particular his use of spacial relationships in his paintings. Hockney is a fascinating made for a multitude of reasons, only one of which was that he was a proudly out gay man in the 1960s -- granted he was an artist, and as such it was easier to be out in "Bohemia." But this is one unique individual, as most great artists are, and he has plenty of other great paintings, and photo collages, that don't use the male form as the focus. This particular piece just happens to be an attention-grabber. But one can hope that it leads to exploring his other works. All of it is worth a look.

And so is Hockney the movie, a documentary by director Randall Wright, here offering an impressive feature film debut. It starts off feeling pretty standard regarding the typical talking heads speaking about their friend and colleague, the subject of the film. But anyone with even a passing appreciation for art will soon be taken in by both the plethora of great pieces shown in this film, but by Hockney himself. Wright treats us to interview footage of Hockney throughout his life, right up to the very recent. He has a peculiar look, with round glasses on a face framed by a bowl haircut he bleached blond for most of his life. But there's a certain vibe to this guy, something that makes him attractive in a way his mere physicality would never do on its own.

Mind you, there are some odd cinematic choices made here. Hockney took a lot of home movies, apparently, and I'm not sure what the point was of including a scene where we see him walking through his house in nothing but a T-shirt and tighty-whities, then only the underwear, until he's pulling down the underwear just in time for a full frontal shot of him as he passes the camera. Why did we need that? And did he record that himself, just for the hell of it? Voiceover narration then begins by the man he had design his home, as we then get a closeup of Hockney's bare ass as he stands in a cylinder shaped shower with blue tiles and several streams of water running vertically to his body from the curved wall.

This is from when he's younger, at least. Hockney makes clear that he had an artist's magnetism to him, but that particular scene is completely inessential to it. A later, briefer shot of him, fully clothed but walking the beach with a friend who is nude but drying off, does more in less time to reveal the type of guy he was as a young man. He clearly had a type of vanity to him, but he was the kind of guy far more driven by his need to make art than by vanity. He fits into a category of sorts, as an artist, but he was still a singular man with a singular style.

Randall Wright offers a compelling portrait of the man, in any case, if not a story in the traditional sense. But it's hard not to be taken with both the man and his art when watching this movie. Those pool paintings are just from one period in his history, which is long and rich. Every other period is worth attention, and making such a convincing case is why Hockney the movie is as well.

This is just the tip of the artistic iceberg in HOCKNEY.

Overall: B+
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