Basquiat (1996)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Biopic [feature]  |   Release Date - Aug 9, 1996 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 108 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Jason Clark

This is the debut film by acclaimed painter Julian Schnabel and as a movie, makes a pretty effective painting. Impeccably designed, well-appointed, but empty at its core, this biopic gives us little insight into what consumed the supposedly brilliant 1980s-artist Jean-Michel Basquiat; meanwhile, the parade of cameos the film offers is actually a deterrent from its central story. Basquiat thankfully eschews the standard drug-fueled clich├ęs of similar tortured-artist pictures, but fails to make its story very urgent, and Jeffrey Wright's central performance does little to fill in the blanks for the uninitiated. This subject matter and period are better conveyed in Mary Harron's flawed but fascinating feature I Shot Andy Warhol, a film released mere months before this one in 1996. Incidentally, all of the paintings represented in the film were created by director Schnabel, since rights to Basquiat's work were not granted to the filmmakers by the artist's estate.