Hockney documentary review (London Film Festival)

Hockney green light

MaryAnn’s quick take…

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

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