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NYFF: Documenting Basquiat

by Jason Adams

I have only managed to make it to two documentaries during the New York Film Festival this year (which is a shame since they always have such a full program) - the doc on Steven Spielberg that I reviewed last week, and then this vividly lived-in one called Boom For Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat, which is also about an artist so great at what he does that he was destined to become the biggest brightest star of it at a very young age.

Of course things turned out pretty differently for Basquiat than they did for Spielberg... Basquiat was dead of a heroin overdose at the age of 27. But even if it's of small relief to those who loved him or those who would've loved to see what another thirty-plus years of his art would've looked like, doc-wise it's Basquiat who comes out on top, because Boom For Real is legit good stuff, side-stepping all the fizz-less lionizing of the other film.

Perhaps that's a consequence of Basquiat's passing - the folks who were there and saw the artist's less-than-stellar behavior feel free to call him out on it since they aren't, you know, reliant on him for jobs now. You might want to second-guess the intentions of those folks who own a lot of his paintings, I suppose (gotta maintain that investment!) but it's easier to luxuriate in the ambiguities of a figure like Basquiat - a punky East Village hellraiser can afford to be seen as a dick, as long as the legend allows for that and as long as - and yes it matters - the work itself is good.

And Basquiat's work remains good. And the doc is good in turn. Even more than just feeling truthful about the man himself it paints a vital portrait of the time and place that he worked in and helped catapult to eternal coolness - these folks that director Sara Driver (who was there in the middle of it herself, giving her keen access) talks to here lived some real craziness, some real Art Times, and Boom For Real captures that spirit in a bottle.

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Reader Comments (2)

Premature death really does add mystique and romance to an individual.

October 12, 2017 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

The biopic made about him was very much above average. And Sara Driver knows this era of NYC so I'm very much looking forward to this.

October 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

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