Saturday, June 04, 2016

Hockney (2016)

Film: Hockney (2016)
Stars: David Hockney
Director: Randall Wright
Oscar History: No nominations
Snap Judgment Ranking: 3/5 stars

I was an Art History minor in college, or so I like to bring up to people either to sound like an intellectual or to try desperately to change the subject when it's getting too vapid (as I've gotten older, I find that patience is something I can't muster the same way I used to and so when a conversation is clearly going nowhere I either want it to end or pivot).  As a result of this, anyway, I have a strong love of art, and perhaps even more so, discussion about art and artists.  I can listen endlessly about the lives of a particular painter or painting, and the history behind it, so when (during what has been a severe movie drought this summer) I spotted a documentary about David Hockney, I figured it would make the cutest companion to the film I had seen the day before, A Bigger Splash (we'll get to the review of that in a day or so, and for those who don't get that joke, click here for an explanation).

The film, like so many documentaries of late that double as biographies for a good chunk of the film, looks back at David Hockney's life, but does so in a strange way.  For the first ten minutes of the film, nearly all of his friends and colleagues who have been assembled to discuss Hockney's life and career speak of him in the past tense, which is bizarre as Hockney is still alive, and quite frankly after about ten minutes even I had my doubts if my memory was wrong (though I'd checked his Wikipedia page just minutes before the start of the picture).  This disconnect is evident later in the film when it appears that most of Hockney's life, and the rollicking, gay way he connected with the art world in the 1960's and 1970's eventually shifted into him becoming less involved with those around him when so many of his friends died from the AIDS crisis in the early 1980's.

The film's best attributes are the way that it occasionally meanders, and almost exclusively focuses on Hockney's life and rarely the validity of his art.  There are some terrific interviews where his subjects actually discuss their thoughts on the paintings of themselves, giving critiques on what they could see, and they're actually quite intriguing, particularly as he was so often painting his friends and they could frame up what was going on in his life at the time (a breakup, a happiness in a relationship-things of that nature). It also heads right up until the present day, and watches as Hockney, who remains relevant and active and even uses iPads to create a lot of his work, has evolved into being one of the great painters of his era, arguably one of the last truly important living artists.

The film isn't shy on discussing his homosexuality, and though we get little thoughts from Hockney himself, it's nice to see a documentary that doesn't shy away from its protagonist's libidinous side (as it appears in his work that there was a thirst involved with Hockney the man).  I do feel like occasionally the film could have meandered more around its actual subject, and we see that in the way they take so long to introduce David to the screen, and get more insight on why he only had one seemingly important romantic relationship in his life or his thoughts on the likes of Warhol or Liechtenstein who were his peers.  Considering the importance of a film like this within the Art History world (with his advanced age, how many more truly in-depth looks will we get into the life of one of Britain's most important 20th century painters?), it would have been appropriate to be more thorough.  However, this is a small quibble-I quite enjoyed this movie and even if you aren't a big fan of his work, if you like artists this is something you should take in to beat the summer heat.

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