‘Amy,’ the Amy Winehouse documentary had its premiere at the Cannes International Film Festival. There has been some controversy over the film directed by Asif Kapadia (‘Senna’). But what do the movie critics think? Here’s a roundup of reviews.
British director Asif Kapadia won critical acclaim and numerous awards for his documentary ‘Senna’ which chronicled the Brazilian Formula 1 motor-racing champion, Ayrton Senna. This time around he is using a similar format, of dispensing with the typical documentary talking heads, and instead taking the viewer headlong into the life of Amy Winehouse as seen through an amazingly rich and detailed and ultimately painfully revealing montage of home video and other archival footage.
The tragic life of the singer who died in 2011 from alcohol poisoning is forever captured in proverbial moments of time and we are reminded of all that we lost when she died. A singer of her stature, fortitude and prodigious talent is not an everyday occurrence.
As we have seen a spate of biopics of singers hitting the small screen with controversy, notably the Whitney Houston story and the Aaliyah story on Lifetime, this time around, a singer is receiving the full-fledged big screen documentary treatment. Nonetheless there is still controversy. Amy Winehouse’s father Mitch Winehouse has denounced the movie, and some speculate that may be because the documentary reveals him in an unflattering manner, delving as it does into family history; the affair he had while his daughter was quite young, his leaving the family, and so on.
But controversies aside, this is also the story of a singer whose life unraveled in a public manner; she became the merciless target of paparazzi for years, and some tabloids openly anticipated, predicted and expected her demise. Yes, after winning five Grammy awards for her brilliant album ‘Back to Black,’ as the years went on the Amy Winehouse story because the story of that unraveling. The documentary brings all of that back to the screen.
And, now with the premiere at the Cannes International Film Festival, the movie critics are weighing in and reviews are generally quite favorable. Here’s a roundup.
“…. A star is born — all over again. Asif Kapadia’s documentary study of the great British soul queen Amy Winehouse, who died of alcohol poisoning at the age of 27, is stunningly moving and powerful: intimate, passionate, often shocking, and almost mesmerically absorbing……” — The Guardian
“….Kapadia has done a brilliant job of coaxing friends and family to broadcast some of their own private footage. In doing so, the film develops an intimate window into Winehouse fundamentally different from her celebrity. These home videos have been mixed in with archive footage from interviews and television shows. The new material includes over 100-plus interviews, but no talking heads. The voices play out over the footage, enhancing the immersion into Winehouse’s past. ….” — Indiewire
“….“Amy” the movie never comes close to showing us why Amy the singer was so great; instead, it settles for showing up, in uncomfortable detail, why Amy the woman could not handle the success her talent brought her. The film is disturbing and tawdry, hard to watch but tough to shake…..” — The Wrap
“… Hardly innovative in form, but boasting the same depth of feeling and breadth of archival material that made Kapadia’s “Senna” so rewarding, this lengthy but immersive portrait will hit hard with viewers who regard Winehouse among the great lost voices not just of a generation, but of an entire musical genre…..” Variety
“….Amy does not attempt a psychological explanation of Winehouse’s fissile character, though her bulimia, depression, substance addiction and fondness for dangerous men were clearly part of the toxic cocktail. Her father Mitch Winehouse also appears far too eager to exploit her fame, bringing unwelcome TV cameras to film her in the middle of a fragile post-rehab stay in the Caribbean. This sequence may explain his objections to the film. Kapadia also glosses over some of the singer’s own less excusable behavior, including multiple arrests for assault. ….” –The Hollywood Reporter
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