Feature

Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child

Tamra Davis' documentary features conversations with friends, gallery owners, and art historians, as well as footage from a Q&A with the artist himself.

Directed by Tamra Davis
(Not Rated)

***

The documentary Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child feels like the work of a friend, said Melissa Anderson in The Village Voice. Director Tamra Davis met the New York graffiti artist and neo-expressionist in 1983, and came to know him well before he died of a heroin overdose at age 27. While Julian Schnabel’s 1996 Basquiat biopic drowned us in “platitudes and fatuous art-world rhetoric,” Davis’ film features articulate conversations with friends, gallery owners, and art historians—as well as footage from an unguarded Q&A with the artist himself. Davis’ interviews “instantly vault the film to the top level of intimacy,” said Joshua Rothkopf in Time Out New York. Basquiat’s longtime girlfriend, Suzanne Mallouk, reveals her “complex feelings” about being both his lover and financial crutch. Art dealer Bruno Bischofberger talks about Andy Warhol’s complicated friendship with Basquiat. For all it reveals, the film can be “tenderly protective of its subject,” said Stephen Holden in The New York Times. Fortunately, Davis’ decision to hold some things back keeps “its subject at enough of a remove to enhance his mystique.”

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