Customer Reviews: A Bigger Splash
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Jack Hazan followed the artist David Hockney around from 1971 to 1973 filming this quasi-documentary about him. A very young and slim Mr. Hockney-- he would have been 34 I believe in 1971-- comes across as witty and interesting. Some parts of this 90 minute film are quite wonderful, particularly where the artist talks about his art or when we actually see him painting. There are also fascinating scenes where the subjects of his paintings actually merge into their life-sized portraits as life imitates art. The footage of the swimming pools looks like the paintings that figure prominently in the movie, particularly "Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)." There is much made of the bright blue color that Mr. Hockey seems to be so fond of, complementing his work as well. Images are often repeated, giving the film a pleasing symmetry.

Not everything works so well, however. The director would have us believe that Mr. Hockney is having difficulty completing a painting because he has just broken up with its subject and his lover, Peter Schlesinger. The artist, who according to the accompanying notes to the DVD, was upset when he saw the finished documentary, indicated that the breakup was not a factor in his slow work on the painting. Also often the people just engage in dull conversation about not much in particular. Some of the dialogue could have been cut without hurting the finished film at all. Much is made about whether Mr. Hockey will return to California or to New York, et cetera, et cetera. One person repeats two or three times that "when a love goes wrong, there are more than two people who suffer." Okay. Then there is a rather explicit sex scene between two men that does not add much to the overall excellence of the movie.

This film will appeal most to hardcore fans, particularly the footage that gives a glimpse into Hockney's creative process. I came away from the movie agreeing with the extremely private novelist Eudora Welty, who believed passionately that one should concentrate on the work of the artist, rather than so much the details of his or her life.
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on April 29, 2006
This movie is a visual delight. If the viewer can ignore the sometimes self indulgent retelling of Hockney's love life, he/she will be impressed with the true magnificence of his work. Also worth a view for a glimpse of Patrick Procktor's painting. This movie is a must-see if you're an admirer of Hockney's art: his life seems a manifestation of his art.
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Jack Hazan's quasi-documentary A BIGGER SPLASH is an unfocused examination about the creative life of David Hockney and supposedly about the effect of his past relationship with his pupil Peter Schlesinger (an artist, sculptor, and photographer who Hockney not only enjoyed as a lover but as a disciple). The précis appears to be that Hockney, in the throes of disappointment about the dissolution of his affair with Peter, decides to move to California where he has already been established as a painter of California people and places.

In London we meet his friends - Celia Birtwell, the elegantly stylishly beautiful model Hockney used repeatedly, dress designer Ossie Clark, confidant Mo McDermott, and patron Henry Geldzahler - each of whom Hockney painted and drew. We watch as Hockney visits the galleries and admires works of his friends, how he paints in his studio, how he relates to his gallerists (like Paul Kasmin), and how he perceives men and other artists.

Peter Schlesinger figures prominently in the film with many episodes of Peter's swimming in the pools of the people Hockney would eventually immortalize. He is a fine presence and carries his silent role well - almost appearing as a ghost muse that keeps Hockney focused on his now infamous swimming pool paintings.

The magic of this film, for those to whom Hockney is a well known and important painter, is the visual recreation of the paintings that have made him so famous: we are allowed to see Celia and her husband with white cat in context with the canvas, the view of Peter staring into the pool at an under water swimmer, the woman and her animal heads who appears in another of Hockney's famous paintings at poolside, etc. This kind of cinematic background is valuable now and will prove invaluable to the archives of David Hockney. For those people this is a must-see film, despite its meandering technique and choppy editing. For others, it may seem too self-indulgent. Grady Harp, August 06
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on September 3, 2006
It is not true that the film made a horrible transfer to DVD. The quality is wonderful, especially for a film that was made in the 70's. In fact, I'd say it was a labor of love for whomever processed the original prints. This is a film about David Hockney so there's no chase scene. I can only speculate that since he is an artist, and artists are a little different from the rest of us, this film is a little different from what you might expect. I think Peter Schlesinger is very pretty and I would like to have gotten to know him better but the film never peers into his personality, and I think that is intentional. I find David Hockney much more attractive in that he is warm, funny, artfully clever, and human. Whether you buy it or rent it, I think you'll get something out of it if you want to know something about David Hockney.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon December 7, 2015
Made in 1974 this is a sort of documentary about the art of Andy Warhol ‘look a likie’ and Northern Enfant terrible – David Hockney. In it he is going through a bout of ‘artist block’ where he can’t get the inspiration to paint a picture of one of his muses properly.

He decides to do a swimming pool painting and this lays out the pains taking process that he goes through. We also have him tussling with the ideas of going on trips or to California because the light is better and his personal relationships. During this he often reimagines how he created certain of his paintings using real people from his life. Some of these are very interesting and shows a whole other side to Hockney. There is also a lot of nudity – male nudity and some could accuse this (for the time) of being deliberately provocative or indeed deliberately pretentious. Either way it works for the most part.

It will help if you are a fan of his work; the trouble with art is that it is very subjective – the old adage ‘I know what I like when I see it’. However, irrespective of ‘taste’ there are objective signposts that indicate talent and for me one of those is the level of interest that a piece can engender. Hockney can manage to do that and he also comes across as being a very warm and personable person.

It does though show its age with some of the fashion on display being so ‘oh dear’ that it can almost hurt your eyes all kaftans and nylon. There is a wonderful ‘Miss World’ send up too that was one of the best scenes in this, but overall this held my interest for the most part but it really is not a film I would wish to see twice, so the rental option might be the best option.
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on July 31, 2015
Decent but somewhat solipsistic film. Mainly focuses on the two objects of Hockney's affection: himself and Schlesinger. Minimal narrative with a good bit of tasteful nudity (once again mostly Hockney and Schesinger).
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on March 18, 2011
I would suggest that viewers watch two films, A Bigger Splash and another one, A Bigger Picture, done 40 years later, both deal with the evolution of David Hockney, painter. In viewing both films you will see how time changes him, from the young hormone, ego driven artist to a later reflective and sharing person. It is almost unbelievable the changes that occur in a person's life as reflected in these films. Very few artist have shared so much about their lives and art as does Hockney, most are reclusive or secretive especially about their process of creating. Hockney is not only an innovative artist but also a scholar, teacher and great screen personality.
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on October 25, 2015
If you are going to make a documentary, there should be dialogue. If you are going to make a movie/documentary/biography there still has to be dialogue. I find there are no clearly defined lines as to what this video is supposed to be about. It can't make up its mind? A Clockwork Orange is a good example of surrealistic video Art. Videodrome had dialogue and a plot, albeit psychological science fiction. Fahrenheit 451 at least made an attempt at a plot and had dialogue which came to a believable climax. What is the main character of this video supposed to be evoking from the audience? If I want to view "Ho Hum" occurrences in the life of some boring individual's life, I can find that on Facebooks or some other social forum.
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on March 1, 2015
I can’t imagine a drearier, more self-indulgent movie. Hockney is in it, but the meandering, narrative-free style tells you little about anything. Lots of mumbling, poor lighting, and what’s the point? Too bad, because his pool paintings are light and wonderfully enigmatic.
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on March 21, 2016
If you're looking for something to put you to sleep, this is your film. A turtle could easily outpace this. It tries to be an artsy film about film and fails. If you're looking for entertainment, look elsewhere.
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