Mapplethorpe (#NewFest 2018)

The second film we saw at NewFest last weekend was the biopic, Mapplethorpe based on the life of photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Most of you know I’m not a huge biopic fan. The genre usually leaves me wanting more. For the most part, I felt like director Ondi Timoner did a good job capturing the life of this controversial, iconic man. Mapplethorpe really pushed the envelope with his hardcore S&M nudes. But he also excelled at still life and classic portraits. The movie contains a large amount of disembodied dicks. My friend David commented that the only actor who went full-body, full frontal was African-American and what did that say about the overt nudity in the film? Was it racist? That’s for someone else to decide. For me, I’m sick of male actors not showing it all. Women do it all the time. And certainly the subject matter warranted some Matt Smith full frontal. Instead we are left with full backal and a lot of stunt dicks. The wigs were also pretty horrendous. I feel like the budget must have been tight. They shot the film in 19 days. Timoner is a documentary filmmaker, and as a result Mapplethorpe feels methodical and lacking in passion. Did I enjoy it? Yes. Did I learn something? Not really. My group also lamented on the Patti Smith/Mapplethorpe relationship in the film which appeared to end when their short-lived romantic relationship ended and didn’t pick up until he was dying. Still I enjoyed the film for what it was. It didn’t feel controversial or salacious to me, but I’ve lived in a similar world as Mapplethorpe, so what seems common to me might seem a bit jarring to some. If you have any interest in the subject, the film is worth checking out. 3.5 out of 5.

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