AMY || 2015, UK / USA || Documentary || Directed by – Asif Kapadia / Produced by – Adam Barker, Paul Bell, James Gay-Rees, David Joseph, George Pank / Music by – Antonio Pinto / Cinematography by – Rafael Bettega, Jake Clennel, Ernesto Herrmann / Editing by – Chris King / 128 mins.
Having previously retraced the life, times and celebrity of superstar Formula 1 driver Ayrton Senna in his documentary Senna, Asif Kapadia returned with a fine film on the life of one of the most tragic figures of recent popular music history, Amy Winehouse, in a documentary simply entitled Amy. The film follows her story from her very beginnings to her tragic demise, by way of her problems with addictions, and the origins of such addictions, that led to her falling out of favour with press and public. The documentary is a powerful work that manages to perfectly show the sadness and darkness of the fragile balance between public and private life, and the destructiveness that it can cause to a sensible soul.
But far from it simply being an examination of celebrity, Kapadia is obviously in awe of the amazing talents of his subject. It is also through the lines that Winehouse wrote in her songs that a lot of her personal issues and ordeal endured as a result of her complicated relationship with her father or the manipulative one with a boyfriend she hopelessly loved, that we get a sense of the emotional intensity and the demons that she fought against.
Amy is constructed meticulously with a wealth of archive material, some of which is amateurish and seen for the first time, which makes it seem all the more personal and provides an unprecendented insight in the life of a woman whose image was manipulated by media for far too long. It is also enriched by interviews with and contributions by friends and relatives. The events that unfold in the film’s duration do so very smoothly, masterfully controlled by its director.
Amy may not have all the urgency of watching history as it unfolds that Senna, but it is just as good as any music biographical documentary one could ever hope to see, with a surplus bonus of knowing that with this major feature documentary a musician’s whole legacy will not only be solidified but also cleansed, whilst retaining the poignance of the regret that modern society played a big part of allowing an amazing talent’s life burn out far too fast. – 4/5