Genre: Art Documentary
Year Released: 2014
Distributor: Film Movement
Running Time: 112 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: 17+
Related Films/Series: David Hockney’s Secret Knowledge, David Hockney: A Bigger Picture
For Fans Of: A Bigger Splash, The Impressionists, The Barefoot Artist, The Cool School, Painters Painting, Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film, Imber’s Left Hand
-David Hockney now has a world record to his name when his painting Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) was sold for $90 million this year when it was auctioned in New York.
-This is actually the 2nd documentary about David Hockney by the director Randall Wright who also did a BBC special on him called David Hockney’s Secret Knowledge which explains why it’s in the related films/series list. He’s also directed Summer in the Forest and several TV docs and programs fro BBC and Channel 4.
-The Smithsonian Channel did some co-production for this documentary.
Those who have followed me on my film reviewing journey know that I enjoy documentaries. Some of them have really caught my attention and I thought reviewing them would be a great addition to this blog ever since I started with that indie documentary Team 409. I’ve been known to watch docs covering different subjects as one could tell. Some of these films covered on here so far have ranged in topics such as film, sports, theatre, dancing, pro wrestling, racism, history, businesses, politics, or just real life portraits of an individual. One subject that has escaped me would be art. While one could argue that some of the docs I’ve reviewed involved an art form such as film making (This Is Not a Film), music (‘Mid the Steep Sky’s Commotion), plays (OT: Our Town) or even ballet (Only When I Dance) as specific examples, I haven’t delved too much into fine art such as painting, drawing, sculpting, etc. It was time to add a little color to my reviewing palette as I decided to critique a doc involving an influential British painter.
Hockney deals with the work of one David Hockney. Hailing from Bradford, England, yet now spending time between London and Los Angeles, this painter has a decades-long portfolio of numerous paintings, photos, and mixed media to his name. He always saw the world with unique colors and with some modicum of artistic merit even when his methods were unorthodox and subjects even bordered on taboo. David and some of his associates talk about his life and legacy as an artist that used anything as art such as canvases, prints, photos, and even using iPads in more recent times to make something new.
I’m not knee deep into fine art like some of my other friends, but I certainly have an appreciation for it.
David Hockney’s name didn’t ring a bell to me, but this documentary did introduce me to several of his works while also detailing his artistic ideologies on display. He certainly has talent as a painter and for someone who can work in multiple disciplines which is something I can appreciate. Even though I strongly disagree with his opinions about Hollywood films, one thing that I did find intriguing was how he viewed cinematography as a living art form. In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the term “pictures” can actually be slang for the movies, so his family would talk about going to the pictures (as in the theater) to see the latest film. David would see motion pictures and take that term very literally as seeing the movies as multiple pictures going on to make one kinetic piece of art. He also uses several colors and multiple unorthodox ways to see the world through his worldview while he would talk about why he does these things even when some of those reasons do become controversial. The cinematography was also great with good camera work and even some creative production elements like changing colors or using a mix of archived footage to flow seamlessly with the more modern ones. The production elements really complemented David’s vision and life as an artist from his highs and lows in his life.
While Hockney did offer some good nuggets about this painter, I admit to being underwhelmed by watching it. I thought Hockney could’ve been shorted by ten or twenty minutes and it could’ve had the same impact. I also thought this documentary got way too close to hagiographic levels as he was just some unique artist who can do know wrong. He did some innovative things and can make art in numerous disciplines, but let’s not make him into a god, okay? Now, I’m no stranger to controversy or watching things with mature content, but I had my limits. There was way too much nudity with certain paintings and even with the video footage that got disgusting for me. Also, David Hockney is openly gay which becomes apparent over a third of the way through the film, so I expect some viewers will be uncomfortable when he talks about that lifestyle and incorporating his orientation into his works. One example involves him using a teenage surfer as a model which can get creepy and one photo shows a gay couple who’ve been in a relationship for a long time despite having a thirty year age gap between the two of them. Out of context, those two can pass as an aging father and a middle-age son instead of two lovers. The film also meanders in the latter third of the film despite a few interesting things such as the iPad and the nine-camera panorama.
Hockney wasn’t exactly my cup of tea despite seeing some unique art from this eccentric individual. Learning about this artist’s technique and philosophy on his craft was certainly enough to keep me watching throughout the whole thing. The visual production was certainly of high-quality and there was a lot of effort with the camera work and the occasional effects. However, the film becomes a puff-piece for the English artist and it gets way too controversial for it’s own good (for the wrong reasons half the time). Hockney was mediocre for me, but I can see fans of his work liking it more than me.
Adjustable Point System:
Add 2-3 points if you’re a David Hockney fan.
Add 1 point if you really like fine art .
Subtract 1-2 points if LGBT concepts make you uncomfortable .
-Great camera work and visuals
-Nice introduction to several of Hockey’s portfolio
-Some interesting moments about David’s past and ideology on art
-Oversaturated with nudity in the art
-Loses steam near the end with the pacing
Final Score: 4/10 points
Content Warning: Just because Hockney is an art documentary doesn’t mean it’s an innocent watch. This film is for older audiences only. There’s strong language used in speaking and writing. There are copious scenes of nudity both female and male going on in art and videos. David Hockney is also gay and makes numerous overt references to the LGBT culture with various relationships, hotspots, and even talking about how some friends of his died of AIDS and other STDs.
All photos used under US “Fair Use” laws. Hockney is property of Film Movement. The DVD cover is from Amazon and is property of Film Movement.