Wednesday, 1 July 2015

REVIEW - AMY (ASIF KAPADIA)


Amy is just a redress, just an explanation, for those who knew her only by her swift rise to fame, and her equally swift fall from grace. The film knows her only by such terms - everything is explicated under the shadow of her career and her health, and Amy's character and childhood are otherwise not actively explored by director Asif Kapadia. He doesn't need to - the more one watches Amy, the more one learns about this iconic singer, and most of it through her music. The lyrics - occasionally misprinted, consistently beautiful - are written on screen, but it's their combination with the exquisite tracks beneath them that make these songs so indelible. The film itself can't quite compare to the experience of simply beholding these songs by themselves, on one of Amy's two albums released during her lifetime, but the added depth and detail provided by Kapadia's film is valuable. And, as just an explanation, it is thorough and persuasive, showing us every last facet of the heart and soul of this woman as she presented herself to us, and allowing us to see beyond the presentation if we so desire. The truth expressed through her music, and the truth that lay beneath it. Amy's story may have been sensational, but it didn't have to be sensationalistic, and Kapadia too often strains for the side of the story that he wants: mismatching image and audio makes for powerful watching, but disingenuous watching too. You come to appreciate the film's power, though, and its immediacy (interviewees are rarely seen, usually only heard over archive footage) as it gives insight into the blinkered hedonism by which Amy lived her life, or by which she permitted her life to be lived. In these circumstances, and as Kapadia explains so fully, so clearly, the ending we all know is coming still comes upon us like a ton of bricks, swiftly falling from the blackest corner of our memory.