Saturday, 30 April 2016


Brace yourselves: Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures dives head first into the story of its subject's life, hard, fast and throbbing. You can feel the blood rush through Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato's minds as they embark on an exercise of illumination and education - a necessary project in enlightening a cloistered audience, and a noble purpose to serve, but what further purpose does this rudimentary documentary serve? We see a lot, we hear a lot, and we learn a lot, and there's no doubt as to the validity of such a direct, informative approach when dealing with topics that have so long been excluded from public consumption and conversation. Bailey and Barbato's knowledge and empathy give Mapplethorpe a lively, engaging tone as it races through its story, but their artistic ambitions are limited, marking an inexcusable oversight for a biopic of such a talented artist. The film hews too closely to biodoc convention, and with a level of haste that often precludes the kind of measured musing that's normally encouraged of the artistic audience. Robert Mapplethorpe's character is thoroughly examined, his work comprehensively presented, but too little time is allotted toward allowing the viewer to appreciate the most salient details; in place of such is too much time toward trivial recollections of his childhood, his lifestyle, his celebrity status. All of meaning, naturally, just perhaps not this much. The titular advice might be best: just look at the pictures.