Back in â€™79, in New York City, graffiti was starting to get noticed by those other than the scribblers of late-night alleyways. Pieces tagged with the name “Samo” began sprouting up everywhere, displaying cryptic verse to challenge even the minds of the most intellectual. By the early Eighties, art dealers began to notice Samo’s work. The mystery artist bombing walls across the city with the raw talent was known by a soon-to-be famed name, Jean-Michel Basquiat (played by the talented Jeffrey Wright).
Basquiat is one of the first noted black artists to step into stardom in the streets of New York, and the film tells us his story.
Written and directed and by Julian Schnabel, a peer of Basquiat’s from days gone, the film provides an account of the inside life of the graffiti artist, starting out from his days living in a cardboard box to his later years spent in the prominent art scene in New York, rubbing elbows with Andy Warhol (played by David Bowie) and the like.
Following a familiar trajectory, fame undoubtedly plays a destructive role in Basquiat’s life and eventual death from a heroin overdose at age 27.
Featuring an all-star cast, including Dennis Hopper, Gary Oldman, Benicio Del Toro, Courtney Love, Willem Dafoe, Claire Forlani, Michael Wincott, Christopher Walken and Parker Posey, the film provides a sympathetic rendition of Basquiat’s life; yet he still remains a mystery to most, only decipherable through the art he’s left behind.