A Julian Schnabel: Private Portrait
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Julian Schnabel: A Private Portrait chronicles the personal life and public career of the celebrated artist and filmmaker Julian Schnabel. Written and directed by Italy's Pappi Corsicato, the film details the Brooklyn-born Schnabel's formative years in Brownsville, Texas; the beginning of his professional career in New York City in the late Seventies; and his Eighties rise to superstar status in Manhattan's art scene as well as international acclaim as a leading figure in the Neo-Expressionism movement. As the film details, Schnabel came to be regularly acknowledged for his extroverted, excessive approach to his work and life (frequently seen in silk pajamas, he lives and works in Montauk, Long Island, and in a 170-foot tall pink Venetian-styled palazzo in Manhattan's West Village) as he moved into filmmaking with 1995's Basquiat. He has since directed four other features, including the award-winning Before Night Falls (2000) and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007). With a kaleidoscopic blend of material from Schnabel's personal archives, newly shot footage of the artist at work and play, and commentary from friends, family, actors and artists including Al Pacino, Mary Boone, Jeff Koons, Bono and Laurie Anderson-not to mention Schnabel, himself-Corisicato creates a fascinating and revealing portrait of the modern art world's most boisterous and provocative maverick.
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The depiction of the artist’s personal life is restrained. As sister Andrea states, Schnabel was spoiled literally from birth. His mother permitted him to live by his own set of rules. Much of the movie’s insight comes from Schnabel himself and the children he raised to be similarly creative. Interviews with his ex-wives and five adult children provide anecdotes about his persona rather than significant narrative about his marriages, divorces, raising his children, or how these impacted his career. His children seem grateful for the opportunities he encouraged them to pursue. Son Vito and daughter Stella, for example, played roles in his movies. Daughter Lola also paints. Vito is an art dealer.
Director Pappi Corsicato illustrates how Schnabel’s creation of art and lifestyle are joined together. He also contains considerable footage about the painter’s first three outings as film director. “Basquiat,” his 1996 biopic of the painter Jean-Michel Basquiat, was critically acclaimed. His later films “Before Night Falls” and ”The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” received mixed reviews.
Corsicato glosses over difficulties and setbacks in Schnabel’s life in favor of consistent praise, hence the title “A Private Portrait.” Schanbel’s friends Al Pacino, Willem Dafoe and Bono offer their thoughts. The documentary’s subjective point-of-view portrays its subject from one dimension. The best scenes involve the artist at work, which are fascinating because of the scale and variety of his work. We see Schnabel throughout his career, in high-ceilinged galleries, within Italian villas, atop New York rooftops, and on a windswept patio in Montauk.
The unrated Blu-ray release is in English and French, with English subtitles.