I was impressed by the movie, but also a little let down. A little confused. What did I learn from Basquiat?
Art is hard. Or extraordinarily easy, but comes with bad consequences. There are, as I understand it, three artists seen in this movie: Jean-Michel Basquiat (Jeffrey Wright), Andy Warhol (David Bowie), and the fictional Albert Milo (Gary Oldman). While the movie focuses on Basquiat, it also shows the three sides of the aristic triangle: How to Not Be a Proper Artist nor Live A Proper Life(Basquiat), How to Be a Proper Artist, but Not Live a Proper Life (Warhol), and How to Be A Proper Artist and Live a Proper Life (Milo). The thing is, you only understand that at the end, when Basquiat goes to Milo’s house for dinner and it’s so… normal. A nice flat, Milo explains that he paints because he loves to paint, and Milo’s daughter wandering around, having a good human relationship with her father. This scene comes when Basquiat doesn’t want to be an artist anymore.
To back up: Don’t do drugs (Basquiat’s serious issue, which comes from the very beginning).
Don’t destroy your most precious relationships. Especially not with Courtney Love. This isn’t much of an explored theme, really. While Basquiat is known as an artist from the streets, his father is middle class. His real connection is with his mother, but after the first scene or two, he doesn’t see her anymore, although he tries. His girlfriend Gina, well, he sunk that ship when he went off with Courtney, so there that goes.
I feel like this film tells me “This is How You Shouldn’t Be an Artist.” He gets picked up by chance (don’t they all?), he is the rave of the art world for a millisecond, then gets passed around from art dealer to art dealer. That’s just as sad, combined with watching him lose whatever feeling he ever got from art in the first place, to see it all disappear.
Jeffrey Wright puts to screen an amazing performance as Basquiat. I was really struck by Bowie as Warhol though. Because I get to see the life of Basquiat with Warhol as a side character, it just makes me want to find out more on Warhol. Bowie played him as the cute and the insane, some brilliant mastermind who’s still stuck in adolescence, and I think that works.