Cinemadope: Jean Michel Basquiat and David Hockney on the big screen

Movies about painters are tough in the way that movies about musicians are tough: it’s nigh impossible to find an actor or actress for the part that is not only adept in their own chosen field, but also good enough to fake the very real particular talents of those they’re portraying. Viewers needn’t be a Picasso or Hendrix to spot a fake; the better films are nearly always those that let the artists — in person or through what they left behind — speak for themselves. This week, two of these better films come round to Valley screens.

Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat is director Sara Driver’s look at the formative years of the famous artist, those heady and dangerous years in New York of the late 1970s, when Basquiat was finding his true voice. Then, the young man that Driver likens to “a cross between Rimbaud and Mozart — a brilliant, poetic prankster” was sleeping on couches in the East Village and exploring the artistic alchemy of a then-affordable downtown, where musicians, artists, and poets young and old came together to cross-pollinate.

Driver tells the tale with the help of many rarely or never before seen works of the young artist, with many coming from a trove stored away by Alexis Adler, an embryologist and friend of Basquiat’s who provided him with a safe place to call home. As those who were present at the start begin to get older, the urge to remember the era has become more pressing. “If we don’t tell the history, then others will, who weren’t there and don’t know the truth,” says Adler.

Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat, various dates and times, Berkshire Museum’s Little Cinema, 39 South St., Pittsfield

And at Amherst Cinema on Sunday June 10, David Hockney at the Royal Academy of Arts gives the British artist the big screen treatment. Now 80, Hockney has long been a global art star, yet he seems as intent as ever as pushing his boundaries, as bold and colorful as his striking acrylics. Director Phil Grabsky’s documentary focuses on two big exhibitions — in 2012 and 2016 — held at the Academy.

David Hockney at the Royal Academy of Arts, Sunday June 10, 1 p.m.,  Amherst Cinema, 28 Amity St., Amherst

Also this week: Amherst Cinema continues its Late Nights series of classic genre films. The series, which brings in old favorites for single-show Friday night screenings, is less about finding hidden gems — many of the offerings are well-known already—and more about giving film lovers a chance to rediscover the joy of seeing these familiar stories on the big screen, surrounded by a group of like-minded friends.

On June 1, the theater hosts a showing of Steven Spielberg’s 1977 sci-fi classic Close Encounters of the Third Kind. (If you’ve ever wondered, the “third kind” refers to encounters with animated lifeforms; the first and second kinds refers to UFO encounters without alien contact.) Richard Dreyfuss (reunited with Spielberg after the runaway success of Jaws just two years prior) stars as Roy Neary, the Indiana lineman whose extraterrestrial encounter upends his life, and the lives of those around him. Shown here in a 4K restoration of the 1997 Director’s Cut, it is a potent reminder of the young Spielberg’s mastery.

A week later, cool-kid vampire flick The Lost Boys invades Late Nights. Released some three decades before Twilight brought vampires back to high schools everywhere, Joel Schumacher’s 1987 cult classic stars Kiefer Sutherland as the big bad, and Jason Patric as the new kid in town who just might end up being seduced into the vamp gang. A horror/comedy mashup that helped bring new life to an half-dead genre, The Lost Boys might be mostly an exercise in nostalgia by now, but if you’re a child of the 80s, this will always be better than a thousand brooding Twilights.

Late Nights, Friday nights at 9:45 p.m., Amherst Cinema, 28 Amity St., Amherst

Jack Brown can be reached at cinemadope@gmail.com.

Jack Brown

Author: Jack Brown

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