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Basquiat

Director: Julian Schnabel


One day I’ll turn the corner, and I know I won’t be ready for it, said Jean-Michel Basquiat. And turn the corner he did, becoming one of the most provocative and talked about artists of his generation. But, in 1988 at the age of 27, he was dead. Writer-director Julian Schnabel has created a powerful and resonant portrayal of Basquiat, celebrating his life and not his death. It is 1981, and a 19-year-old graffiti artist named Samo is sleeping rough on the New York streets. Creating a drawing out of maple syrup in a local coffee shop, he meets and moves in with Gina, who then discovers that her dresses, fridge and anything else that comes to hand become the fabric for one of Samo’s (now Basquiat) paintings.
Determined to hit the big time as an artist, he hawks his work aroung town, notably in a scene when he tackles Andy Warhol and art dealer Bruno Bischofberger in a classy restaurant. Soon Basquiat is picked up and lauded as the great black painter, lifted off the streets and into the headlines. Drugs, sex and the frenzied ’80s international art scene combined with Basquiat’s harrowing self-doubts, loneliness and isolation all lead to his early death of a heroin overdose. With a mesmerising performance from Jeffrey Wright as Basquiat, complemented by superb cameos for Dennis Hopper, Gary Oldman, David Bowie, Christopher Walken and Courtney Love, this is a brave and fascinating portrayal of an artist.

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