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What To Watch Thursday is Overdose.am’s regular film injection: we pick out new cinema releases and special fim events you’ll want to know about.
Anticipation: So far, a whopping eight cinemas in Amsterdam have programmed screenings for Amy, which is some vote of confidence. Towards the end of her short life, Winehouse had become the butt of brutal jokes within the entertainment industry, but in revisiting her talent and song-writing process in the context of her emotional struggles, this documentary attempts to correct that: she was a world class musician and deserves that legacy.
Appreciation: Despite all the industry recordings of Winehouse’s performances and interviews, the director mostly used all manner of shaky clips recorded by on mobile phones and handy cams, shot down at the pub or at her home. It’s not at all aesthetic at times, but vital in unraveling what happened to Winehouse. As the film progresses, you become even more uncomfortable with the use of disturbing paparazzi shots — their powerful zoom lenses and relentless flash guns are frantic and intrusive, and we’re a part of that intrusion. But Amy shouldn’t be seen as ‘car crash’ viewing. Instead the film tries hard to re-frame the story and dedicates much time to showing her creative energy and passion for collaborating with other musical talents.
Director Asif Kapadia (Senna, 2010) decided early on to use Winehouse’s lyrics to build the narrative with the intention that her songwriting should take center stage. Her lyrics reflected and exorcised what happened to her in her personal life; from her father’s early neglect and a boyfriend that goes back to his ex, these episodes are what brought us songs like What Is It About Men and Back To Black. The world loved her songs, so the film examines where they came from.
From the pre-fame days, the Netherlands even gets a look-in. A tiny snippet of an interview with a Dutch journalist is audibly awkward, and shows how from the beginning Winehouse genuinely disarmed the media with her outspokenness and honesty. Footage from the North Sea Jazz Festival around the time of her first album, Frank, shows her in her preferred habitat, before a small audience of jazz connoisseurs.
Photo by James McCauley/REX.
Length: 127 min.
Verdict: ★★★★★ – Let’s the music tell the story, not the tabloids
Where to see: De Balie, Filmhallen, Kriterion, Pathé (Arena, City & Tuschinski), The Movies, Rialto
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