There’s something about artists that makes them compelling biopic subjects, especially if there’s something sexy, traumatic, Bohemian and otherwise scandalous about their personal life. In honor of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s birthday — he would have been 51 today — we present a few recommendations, just to get you started. Here you will find those dramatic details artfully exploited on celluloid with various degrees of salaciousness and, we hope, some valuable background on Bacon’s, Van Gogh’s, and Kahlo’s actual artistic careers. First up? The birthday boy himself.
Julian Schnabel’s stylish film debut depicted NYC legend Jean-Michel Basquiat and his surrounding crowd of art-world big guns, friends, and fiends… or, in the case of Andy Warhol (played by David Bowie), all three. The first “major movie” about a painter by a painter, it’s all the drama of brilliant Basquiat’s life — from his rise to fame as a rebel graffiti poet neo-expressionist to his death by speedball — further dramatized by artist-in-crisis-empathizing Schnabel. What else? “Back in the day” New York City nostalgia. Classic soundtrack. Impressive cast. Surprises (Vincent Gallo plays himself. Remember GRAY?) Just make sure to supplement with viewing Basquiat’s actual work since the film bombards you with quality fakes, painted by Schnabel himself.