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Basquiat (1996)

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The brief life of Jean Michel Basquiat, a world renowned New York street artist struggling with fame, drugs and his identity.

Director:

Julian Schnabel

Writers:

Lech Majewski (story) (as Lech J. Majewski), John Bowe (short story) (as John F. Bowe) | 2 more credits »
2 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Jeffrey Wright ... Jean Michel Basquiat
Michael Wincott ... Rene Ricard
Benicio Del Toro ... Benny Dalmau
Claire Forlani ... Gina Cardinale
David Bowie ... Andy Warhol
Dennis Hopper ... Bruno Bischofberger
Gary Oldman ... Albert Milo
Christopher Walken ... The Interviewer
Willem Dafoe ... The Electrician
Jean-Claude La Marre Jean-Claude La Marre ... Shenge (as Jean Claude LaMarre)
Parker Posey ... Mary Boone
Elina Löwensohn ... Annina Nosei
Paul Bartel ... Henry Geldzahler
Courtney Love ... Big Pink
Tatum O'Neal ... Cynthia Kruger
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Storyline

Basquiat tells the story of the meteoric rise of youthful artist Jean Michel Basquiat. Starting out as a street artist, living in Thompkins Square Park in a cardboard box, Basquiat becomes a star and a part of Andy Warhol's art world circle. But success has a price, and Basquiat pays with friendships, love, and eventually, his life. Written by Martin Lewison <lewison+@pitt.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

In 1981, A Nineteen-Year-Old Unknown Graffiti Writer Took The New York Art World By Storm. The Rest Is Art History.

Genres:

Biography | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for drug use and strong language | See all certifications »
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Details

Official Sites:

Official site

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Spanish

Release Date:

9 August 1996 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Build a Fort, Set It on Fire See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$3,300,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$83,863, 11 August 1996, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$2,961,991, 24 November 1996
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

David Bowie and Gary Oldman have both played Pontius Pilate. Bowie played the role in The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), and Oldman played him in Jesus (1999). See more »

Goofs

When Jean Michel is first painting in his new basement studio, he's painting two paintings simultaneously; a large and a small one, both on the floor. He paints a large black stripe on the small one, which disappears then reappears between shots. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Rene: Everybody wants to get on the Van Gogh boat. There's no trip so horrible that someone won't take it. The idea of the unrecognised genius slaving away in a garret is a deliciously foolish one. We must credit the life of Vincent Van Gogh for really sending this myth into orbit. I mean, how many pictures did he sell, one? He couldn't give them away. He has to be the most modern artist, but everybody hated him. He was so ashamed of his life that the rest of our history will be ...
[...]
See more »

Crazy Credits

At the very end of the credits, a short clip showing a surfer riding on a wave is displayed. It's very similar to the surfing/wave shots that Basquiat keeps seeing whenever he looks up to the sky during the movie, but it's in full color instead of being blue-tinted. See more »


Soundtracks

Suicide Hotline Mode
Performed by Nicholas Marion Taylor
Written by Nicholas Marion Taylor / Julian Schnabel
Published by Harold Dessau's Edelweis Music Inc.
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Inscrutable, yet interesting study....
4 June 2006 | by MarieGabrielleSee all my reviews

of Jean Michel Basquiat and the art world of the 80's. Granted, the film is a bit abstruse, and some viewers have complained about the music tracks (actually Basquiat's own music from his band); but it does serve to show the disaffected life of an artist, who seemed to gain fame, money, and fair-weather friends, despite himself.

Jeffrey Wright is very understated, but believable as Basquiat. Apparently he and his father were estranged, until he became famous. Then everyone wanted something from him. Not just another story of fame and its vices, however; because the film does NOT show his life as glamorous, indeed once he has "made it" we still see him dining at Lutece, people critiquing, being unaccepting of him as a person. Perhaps in real life this was one of the sources of his insecurities, and reason for his drug addiction. Certainly, if one believes even half of what is written about the NY art world- it cannot have been a forgiving place.

That aside, the film also has some interesting cameos, David Bowie as Warhol is excellent, Dennis Hopper as the Zurich art dealer, Bruno Bischofsburger is very believable. An amusing cameo with Christopher Walken as a James Lipton character; a pretentious interviewer. The only annoying performance was Parker Posey, as gallery owner Mary Boone, who perhaps portrayed this person too close to the mark.

Keeping in mind that Basquiat was under age 30 when he died, this story is credible. An artist who rose too fast, was used and discarded- apparently in real life Basquiat had a tendency to be generous, and gave away many of his paintings. There is one scene where he is beaten up so two street people can take steal a "SAMO" inscription on a piece of metal.

The visuals are also noteworthy, while an earlier review critiqued the surfboarding sequence, I find that a preferable segue to Basquiat's need to escape; apparently he owned a good deal of property in Hawai'i and spent time there as well.

The scenes with Claire Forlani are also effective, Basquiat's some-time girlfriend, we see her as a waitress, then a junkie, then a cleaned-up version, going to Columbia. The NY street sequences are realistic, It is not glamorous (though the accompanying jazz music is). It shows the schizophrenic nature of NY; Lutece, a homeless person sleeping outside, a man selling stuffed animals on the street, and Bruno Bischofsberger(Hopper) who mistakes Basquiat for a homeless person, trying to clean the windows on his Mercedes. Very realistic.

I highly recommend this film; it does not glamorize the story, and while it may not be completely accurate, it rings true, and portrays a life many artists may wish for, until they get it. 9/10


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