A compelling biography and a far-reaching short set the bar high for this year’s awards season.
Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat
“We could just be the art world.”
Similar to Franz Schubert (whose output continues to astonish newcomers once realizing he died at the tender age of 31), Driver’s homage to the, just, 27-year-old, visual, literary, musical artist extraordinaire, is a welcome reminder as to how adversity fuels creativity.
Deftly framed by the death, destruction and despair of New York City’s Lower East Side in 1978 through the hope of space travel just a few years later, the film goes far beyond celebrating an exceptional talent (who, like his art, is seen but never heard) and tries to capture the mood, talent and determination of disenfranchised artists of all stripes just wanting to get their work “out there”.
From making SAMO his own (abandoning co-creator Al Diaz), to refusing to be labelled as a graffiti artist, the couch surfing (in his teens), then forming a band, Gray to finally selling his first “real” painting a day after it was completed, viewers can only marvel at the audacity, determination and too-soon demise of probably the most seminal black artist of America in the 20th century,
Using copious amounts of archive footage and “memories of now” interviews with those who “knew him when”, Driver and her talented crew (most exceptionally the magical skills of editor Adam Kurnitz) have provided devoted fans and newcomers alike with this compelling Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
The lost boy and the fox
In just a few minutes, Comte takes viewers on a wild ride of two young boys (Félix Grenier showing an impressive range of emotion as Tyler; playing sidekick Benjamin, Alexandre Perrault is readily precocious and convincingly terrorized) being boys as they challenge each other with a series of games and dares in a desolate surface mine.
But soon their escapades suddenly vanish as one of the deadly by-products of raping the earth literally takes hold and threatens never to lose its grip.
Fuelling the drama are aspects of nature, noticeably buzzing flies and a now-you-may-see-him, now-you-may not fox. As the tension builds, composer Brian D’Oliveira deftly reinforces the mood with low reeds—especially the bass clarinet—whose repetitive lines at varying speeds are at one with Comte’s vision of just what life might become, before and after a traumatic event.
Filmmaking here of the highest order. Hopefully a feature will be next. JWR