“Doctor Who” may have had its global premieres synchronized, but it took a year for “David Bowie: The Last Five Years,” a film about Britain’s other great cultural spaceman, to make it to the United States.
Francis Whately’s film, which premiered in the UK in January 2017, comes to HBO tonight on what would have been the singer’s 71st birthday and two days before the second anniversary of his death from liver cancer.
Not much has changed in that time, of course, at least as concerns us here. Bowie still feels essential, necessary and oddly present — a useful example, the global legend as inspirational outsider. This is briefly a sad story — he dies in the end — but it isn’t a tragic one.
Richard Hambleton’s death on Oct. 29 caused barely a ripple on the arts scene. Few newspapers and websites — the New York Times was one of the few papers to run an obit — mentioned his passing.
And yet in the early 1980s, Hambleton, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring ruled the contemporary art scene, moving in celebrity circles, the subjects of exhibitions that were red-carpet media sensations, and selling their works for exorbitant amounts.
As Hambleton says in Oren Jacoby’s documentary “Shadowman,” in an interview from 2014: “At least Basquiat, you know, died,” he says. “I was alive when I died, you know. That’s the problem.”
Indeed, while Basquiat died of a drug overdose at age 27 in 1988 and Haring died at 31 of AIDS in 1990, Hambleton dropped off the map, descending into years of drug addiction and sometimes homelessness, and was generally forgotten until an exhibition backed by Giorgio Armani rocked the art world again in 2009.
Love Between the Covers – This glimpse into the hardworking women of romance is a must-see for anyone interested in the publishing industry at all, since romance is indisputably the best selling genre in fiction.
Gabo: The Creation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez – This Spanish-language documentary is about the life of the Colombian novelist and Nobel Laureate, author of “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and “Love in the Time of Cholera,” among other notable books.
She Makes Comics – “She Makes Comics”is a Kickstarter funded documentary about the awesome women who have been involved in comic books since the beginning, both as fans and creators.
Look & See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry – “Look & See” is a visually stunning documentary about the writer, farmer, and environmental activist Wendell Berry, produced by some big names like Terrence Malick and Robert Redford.
Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia – Novelist, essayist, and political pundit Gore Vidal is the writer at the center of this documentary. The film delves into Vidal’s life, exploring the effects his career has had on American politics.
It’s 2017 and the topic of women in the electronic music industry is still a tender one. That’s why Canadian film producers Nicole Sorochan and Ian Mackenzie decided to take it upon themselves to throw their hats in the ring for creative ways to prove that women have an important place in music.
The two wanted to show how integral femininity can be for a female artist and how differently you can define femininity in the process.
“Amplify Her” sets out on a mission to find female DJs within the industry who would share their experiences when asked the ultimate question: “What do women bring to electronic music that no one else can?”
Filmmaker James Moll is the rare auteur who has captured both an Academy Award and a Grammy for his work – having earned the distinction for films “The Last Days” (which explored the lives of Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust) and “Back and Forth” (which profiled the Foo Fighters).
His latest, “Obey Giant,” turns the cameras on artist, entrepreneur and activist, Shepard Fairey, who ascended from prep-filled days as an adolescent in South Carolina to the pinnacle of the art community – amassing political clout, famous friends, and a string of felony charges along the way.
While most know Fairey for his clothing line and his creation of President Barack Obama’s “Hope” imagery, the film is heavy on lessor known aspects of his life which provide valuable insight into what possesses a person to seek out temporary canvas space on the street – which subsequently has permanent repercussions – all the while attempting to keep an air of mystery about the work.
“David Bowie: The Last Five Years,” which premiered Nov. 10 at the DOC NYC film festival, is a singular and haunting pop documentary.
It’s a companion piece to “David Bowie: Five Years,” the 2013 documentary in which director Francis Whately meditated on the pivotal period of Bowie’s fame, from 1970 to 1975. That movie dug deep into the heady fascination of the first rock star who was passionate and Warholian at the same time — an image junkie who kept rotating his look and aspect, and did it as casually as most of us change underwear.
“The Last Five Years,” also directed by Whately, was assembled under the shadow of Bowie’s death (he died on Jan. 10, 2016). It’s about a very different man: one who remained, to the end, a committed artist even as he was living as a retired pop star.
Bowie’s exit from the spotlight of celebrity happened quite suddenly on his 2004 Reality Tour. During that series of arena shows, he had never been more joyful or unironic on stage — an ageless satyr-prince, one who was now willing to just stand up and boogie, reveling in the glory of his golden years. But during one show, he collapsed and had to be helped off stage; it turned out he had suffered a minor heart attack. That’s when Bowie called it quits, withdrawing into a meditative New York existence with his wife, Iman.
“David Bowie: The Last Five Years” premieres on HBO in January.