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I remember when Amy Winehouse died back in 2011 it had a certain
inevitability about it yet was still shocking and very sad. The media
had made a meal out of her problems documenting them at every given
opportunity and her increasingly emancipated appearance was publicised
for all to see, courtesy of the lowlifes of the paparazzi. Hers was
life in a goldfish bowl by the end and for a person who never wanted
fame in the first place; this made her life all the more difficult.
What complicated matters so fatally was that in amongst all of this,
she had a predisposition for drink and drugs. The combination sent her
spiralling on a downward trajectory.
This documentary about her has been made by Asif Kapadia who directed
the film Senna (2010) which remains one of the most highly respected
documentaries of recent years. When you consider that that film was
also about someone at the top of their field who died young in a
dramatic and sudden manner, you could say that there are some
similarities between both stories. But in reality the Amy Winehouse
story is a much darker one, with its central character going on an
extended path of self-destruction. And one in which we in the audience
know only too well how it ends. The film is made up of home video and
TV clips of Winehouse and fills in details with recollections of people
who were close to her in the form of voice-overs, as opposed to a more
traditional talking heads format. After the release of her definitive
album Back to Black in 2006, Winehouse basically retreated and
conducted next to no interviews which of course posed the film-makers
some problems and the effect is that as the film goes on she becomes
increasingly remote and we feel like we know her less.
The contrast between the Amy of the early years to the one latterly
seen is pretty pronounced. Her appearance became more intense and she
quickly covered herself with an assortment of harsh tattoos. This phase
coincided with her downward spiral with drink and drugs. It seems
pretty clear that her attachment to her husband Blake Fielder was
inextricably linked to this. He came across as a hanger-on who led her
onto hard drugs and who then had little self-interest in getting her
off them. The problem was that she loved him and it was this that made
the situation so destructive. Throughout the film, as her songs play,
her lyrics are displayed on screen and it is obvious that much of her
music was based on highly personal emotional songs that constantly were
sourced from her experiences in relationships. So much of her success
was derived from this well of emotion but it was one that could equally
destabilise her. This was only exacerbated by her bouts of depression
and her problematic relationship with her dad.
There is no getting away with the fact that this is a sad story; one
that is all the more shaming when you consider that it played out so
visibly in the public eye. But the public eye is very uncaring
unfortunately and all too often empathises when it is far too late. But
this film also captures the voice and the humour, so integral to Amy
Winehouse. And so while it is impossible to ignore the tragedy, the
beauty is here too. This was, after all, a very singular artist whose
roots were in jazz, which is hardly a music for lightweights. Amy
Winehouse was a proper talent who made music entirely on her own terms.
If I was to criticise mildly it would be to say that the film itself
might be marginally too long and perhaps goes over some ground more
than it has to. But mainly this is ultimately a very worthy attempt to
tell what is a complex and contrasting story to the screen with all its
darkness and light.
Tags for Amy Full Movie
, Juliette Ashby
, Lauren Gilbert
, Nick Shymansky
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