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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Hockney documentary review (London Film Festival)

Hockney green light

You don’t need to be a fan of the artist to enjoy this spirited celebration of his life and art. But you may end up a fan afterward.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

I’m not a particular fan of the artist David Hockney, but I enjoyed Randall Wright’s documentary tribute to him as much for its spirited celebration of a life straddling many different worlds in time and place as for its examination of how his work has developed over decades and across numerous disciplines. Through wonderful archival footage, including the Hockney family’s own home movies, and interviews with family, friends, and the artist himself, Wright develops an extraordinary portrait of a man who grew up among the privations of postwar Britain — Hockney was born 1937 and was 16 when rationing ended — to embrace, in his art and in his life, the dreams and fantasies of legendary places: London, New York, Los Angeles. With his big black nerd glasses and dyed blond hair, Hockney wasn’t just the epitome of Mod cool in the 1960s, he helped invent it via his very public personality, hanging out with celebs even as he was becoming famous himself and making funky paintings and drawings that explored what it meant to be gay at a time before being out, as he was, was much accepted beyond the tolerant bohemian community he was part of. (Hockney’s suggestion here that AIDS killed bohemia isn’t something that hadn’t occurred to me before, but it has the ring of truth to it.) At nearly 80, Hockney is still making intriguing work, taking advantage of new technologies in ways that you might not expect from someone who is, as he notes, from the last generation to grow up without television. Today, Hockney is using iPhones and iPads to make clever, witty art that is expanding our ideas about how we can use all these new toys to see our world in unexpected ways. Did I say I wasn’t a fan of Hockney’s? Well, I am now.

viewed during the 58th BFI London Film Festival


green light 3.5 stars

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Hockney (2014)
US/Can release: Apr 22 2016
UK/Ire release: Nov 28 2014

MPAA: not rated
BBFC: rated 15 (strong language)

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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  • bronxbee

    i’ve always been a fan of hockney’s — love his LA series and one of my favorite paintings ever is his Mount Fuji in the Met, which sadly, hasn’t been on display in years

  • RogerBW

    The counterargument is that acceptance killed gay culture. Once you didn’t (to a first approximation) have to worry about being beaten up for being gay, you didn’t have to hang around in the small communities that had been accepting and you had a better chance of being able to do your own thing rather than conforming to their culture.

  • But bohemia was larger than gay culture and is, in my eyes, still needed: we’re still not very tolerant of artists and freethinkers.

  • the sayer of the truth

    Nicolas Cage is heterosexual, there-fore he is a great man. David Hockney is a woofter, there-fore he is a pile of garbage.

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