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The Splash Could Have Been Bigger
on April 7, 2008
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.