Among the most strikingly original films on a modern artist (as arresting as Clouzot’s Le Mystère Picasso), Jack Hazan’s picture takes its title from David Hockney’s most famous painting and is neither fly-on-the-wall cinema vérité nor formal documentary. It’s a film shot over three years in the early 1970s by a film-maker (credited as co-writer, director and director of photography) fascinated by Hockney’s portraits, made with the artist’s partial and reluctant participation, and without any specific scenario or agenda. From the semi-improvised, unscripted material, Hazan carved a story tracing the disintegration of the affair between Hockney and his lover and model, the Californian Peter Schlesinger. Incorporated into this episode narrative are members of the flamboyant, charismatic, hard-working artist’s circle, most notably Henry Geldzahler, Patrick Proctor, Celia Birtwell and Ossie Clark, the subjects of several key portraits.
Hockney was initially horrified by the movie’s intimacy, but was soon persuaded by his friends of its brilliance, and indeed it is an insightful portrait of the artist and his world, artfully organised and beautifully lit. Now nearly 40 years later, in this dual-format DVD and Blu-ray version, we can observe Hockney handling emotional and painterly problems at a key junction in his career and admire the way Hazan has captured the hedonistic gay culture of 1970s.
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