From BAFTA award-winning director Asif Kapadia (SENNA), AMY tells the incredible story of six-time Grammy winner Amy Winehouse—in her own words. Featuring extensive unseen archive footage and previously unheard tracks, this strikingly modern, moving and vital film shines a light on the world we live in, in a way that very few can. A once-in-a-generation talent, Amy Winehouse was a musician that captured the world’s attention. A pure jazz artist in the most authentic sense—she wrote and sung from the heart using her musical gifts to analyse her own problems. The combination of her raw honesty and supreme talent resulted in some of the most unique and adored songs of the modern era. Her huge success, however, resulted in relentless and invasive media attention which, coupled with Amy’s troubled relationships and precarious lifestyle, saw her life tragically begin to unravel. Amy Winehouse died from alcohol poisoning in July 2011 at the age of 27.Read More
Director: Asif Kapadia
Run Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
That sentiment can unfortunately apply to so many rock icons, and so many were gone at age 27, including Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones and more recently, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse. A new documentary about Winehouse, called Amy has just been released, compelling but is not without its share of controversy.
The film has us from its opening credits- a group of friends are gathered for a party in 1998 and each teen sings along to ‘Happy Birthday’, only to have a 14-year old Amy Winehouse finish the song solo with such aplomb and obvious talent, that it seems obvious from that clip, that she would go on to greater things.
Filmmaker Asif Kapadia previously helmed an equally tragic story of race car driver Aryton Senna and developed a reputation of providing an unflinching look at his subjects. Initially, the project had complete support from the Winehouse family and friends, only to view the finished work, and have many disown the film, including Winehouse’s estranged father, Mitch.
Most of the film is culled from private home video footage, TV clips, and press filming, with most of the interviews done in voiceover over the clips, rather than in a face-to-face setting. Because of this, much of what’s on screen is raw and often shaky, so a close seat in the theater is not recommended.
Winehouse fans will be drawn to the footage itself, much of which is previously unseen, as well as the unheard music scattered throughout the film, while even casual fans will find many of the clips interesting viewing. Musical footage includes the National Youth Jazz Orchestra in 2000, recording her breakthrough second album, Back to Black, with producers Salaam Remi and Mark Ronson, and a duet with Tony Bennett for his album, as well as her Grammy wins in 2008.
Hindsight may be 20/20, but it seems obvious when Winehouse goes from the highest of musical heights, to get caught up with bad people such as ex-husband Blake Fielder-Civil, the introduction of lethal drugs, and facing her own self-harm and bulimia, that this will not end well.
One aspect that is revealed about the early Winehouse is her obvious love with jazz legends, modeling her vocal delivery after greats Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan, which is much more evidenced in her first album, Frank. If she had stayed the jazz chanteuse she started out to be, she might still be alive, playing clubs today.
While the first two-thirds of the film can be watched with a fly-on-the-wall fascination; the last third is a tougher view, chronicling the singer’s descent- in and out of treatment, publicly embarrassing situations, and the infamous last performance in Belgrade, Serbia where a near-incoherent Winehouse freezes, stumbles around, and is booed. Even her father near the end was cashing in on her celebrity, bringing a complete film crew with him as he visited her in the Caribbean.
Despite her father and a few others' misgivings about their portrayals, the film opened to a box office record in the UK as the highest grossing documentary, with a high per-screen average here in the States as well.
This is required viewing for any Amy Winehouse fan simply because of the footage and unheard music, and anyone with a casual interest will find her story intriguing, complicated, and ultimately heartbreaking.
Amy is in theaters nationwide currently.
W♥M movie grade- "B+"