director Asif Kapadia
viewed: 08/15/2015 at UA Twin Stonestown, SF, CA
Amy Winehouse. What a talent. And what a tragedy.
Amy is another fine feature from British director Asif Kapadia whose earlier documentary Senna (2010) told another story of fame and untimely death. Kapadia has an interesting tack with documentary, using lots of archival footage and images, but never showing his own interviews as talking heads. Rather, they are disembodied voices illustrating the visuals that he chooses to focus on. One scene in particular struck me, how he slowed down the footage of Winehouse rising to accept an award, a subtle variation, which perhaps suggests the amount of control he employs in telling a story that seems so seamless.
The film begins with a 14 year old girl cutting into a song like an old pro, follows the growth of the singer into songwriter, building a reputation with her first album, already mature in many ways as an artist, until her life became the long slow car crash of fame and drugs and booze and bulimia, even as she crafts the album that will become her eternal legacy.
I actually really liked her music. The movie only adds to that understanding, how specifically personal her lyrics were, her tremendous inherent vocal talents, raw and yet mature. I’ve been hearing it nonstop in my head since seeing the movie.
The tragedy of her life, as the film tells it, starts with her parents, perhaps not being proactive enough to her needs. Her mother admits she could never tell her “no” and did nothing when the teenager told her that she was bulimic. Or that as one person suggests, when and early opportunity to attend rehab was shaken off by her father, a chance that maybe could have set her on a better path instead gave way to fodder for her biggest hit single.
More than anything, it was the combination of the bulimia, her husband Blake Fielder-Civil (who is one of the disembodied voices) and their drug-fueled romance of massive indulgence, booze and perhaps most lethally, the predatory and inescapable media. Her story in many ways shares much with that of Kurt Cobain: drugs, depression, a doomed marriage, toxic fame. As hard as Cobain found all that in the 1990’s, it’s completely insane by the 2000’s London, the swarms of photographers looking to snap her looking her worst, ruthless bloodsucking.
The image of the police carrying her shrouded tiny corpse from her London flat is harrowing. This being of such vibrant talents and wit and flair has left, the discarded body the empty vessel of an amazing soul gone now forever.