Rough Sketch

Basquiat misses its scrawling

I don't mean to be dismissive of Basquiat. It's not a bad picture, despite its flaws. But the cumulative effect of the Warhol Three has left me a little cranky, not toward Andy and gang--Godspeed to them--but toward the filmmakers, for their perpetuation of a reverential attitude toward him. All three of the films creep up to the edge of flat-out ridiculing Warhol's approach to art, but none of them has the nerve to do it--not even to the extent that Warhol did himself.

Warhol's body of work amounts to a sly, de facto admission that the emperor had no clothes, but none of Warhol's chroniclers seems willing to make this same admission. They're all afraid of the charge of Philistinism. Off in avant-garde heaven, Valerie, Nico, Basquiat and Andy himself are probably sharing a good laugh right now.

--M. V. Moorhead

Directed by Julian Schnabel; with Jeffrey Wright, David Bowie, Dennie Hooper, Gary Oldman, Claire Forlani, Michael Wincott, Benicio del Toro, Christopher Walken, Willem Dafoe, Courtney Love, Tatum O'Neal, Elina Lowensohn and Parker Posey.


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