Basquiat (1996)

Julian Schnabel’s biopic of graffiti artist Jean-Michael Basquiat is pure 1990s indie glory: There’s the pre-9/11 New York City of the 1990s (although the film is set in the late 1970s-early 1980s), an all-star cast of indie darlings like Jeffrey Wright and Parker Posey, and a meandering-but-satisfying structure that shows the audience who Basquiat was, in lieu of telling them in a traditional biopic structure. Wright is extraordinary as Basquiat – even though he remains enigmatic and unreachable throughout the narrative, we get the sense that that’s how Basquiat actually was in real life, which is a quietly effective way of developing him as a screen character. Along with a terrific supporting cast (which includes a totally believable David Bowie as Andy Warhol and a fiery Michael Wincott as an art dealer), Schnabel’s movie glides along effortlessly for its duration, on the way to a dreamy, meditative climax that frames Basquiat’s years as an artist in a satisfying, conclusive manner. It’s not the type of movie that will move mainstream audiences but art house regulars are likely to find plenty of inspiration.

Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)

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