Monday, 13 July 2015

Week 26: Amy

Director: Asif Kapadia
Seen:     3rd July 2015
Venue:   Odeon Cinema Putney UK
Snacks:  Magnum
Mood:     Melancholic

“Slow down, you’re too important. Life teaches you how to live it if you live it long enough”
Tony Bennett

I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard about the death of Amy Winehouse and I recall vividly that it was not a shock. It was news that was in some way horribly inevitable after photo after photo of her appeared in the media skeletal, wild eyed and fragile. It was obvious to see that this was a woman who needed help and did not need the press hounding her lasciviously for increasingly disturbing pictures. Unfortunately for Amy her talent was such that she wasn’t able to just do what she loved. Instead she lived her life under a microscope constantly harangued by the paparazzi who seemed to take a sick glee in watching her downward spiral into addiction.

I had heard a lot of great things about ‘Amy’ directed by Asif Kapadia who also directed the very good ‘Senna’ (2010). This film follows Amy’s rise to meteoric fame and is very powerful as it is literally full of home video footage of her, we inhabit her world for a few hours and see her start on the dark path of self destruction. ‘Amy’ is not a traditional ‘talking heads’ style documentary but rather uses an immersive technique  of voice overs from friends, colleagues and family. This style combined with all the personal footage is entirely and utterly absorbing.The story is of course very very tragic and some parts of it are very hard to watch as Amy becomes more erratic and sad. On the other hand you really feel the pure originality of her music and lyrics which in a way balances out the sadness.
At one point Amy states ‘If I ever thought I was famous I would kill myself’ and in a way she did.

It reminded me a lot of the Kurt Cobain story, another vulnerable individual that could not handle the trappings of stardom.

Amy’s relationships with her father Mitch and her one time husband Blake Fielder Civil come under close inspection and there is no doubt that her relationship with Blake in particular was extremely toxic. The first time he left her to go back to his girlfriend spurred Amy to pen the highly personal ‘Back to black’ it raises the interesting question if she hadn’t have experienced that break up would we have ever heard that album? So, although Blake undoubtedly initiated her into the world of hard drugs, it is a sad irony that her best music came about because of her relationship with him.
Of course Blake and Amy reunited and eventually got married. I was left to wonder about his intentions - did he truly love Winehouse or did he love the fame? I will leave that for you to decide for yourselves.
Her relationship with her father Mitch was also a tricky one, she clearly idolised him but in turn he made some very curious choices - one example is him following her to her retreat in St Lucia with a film crew in tow, the very thing she was running from.

The documentary is brilliant, gripping and truly tragic.It highlights the dark grip of addiction and what can happen when this is played out in the public eye.
There were obviously various elements that led to the untimely death of Amy Winehouse but as I left the cinema the thought that struck me most was that the media have a lot to answer for.

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