Documentary of the short, busy, spotlit life of 'jazz-singer', Amy Winehouse, who died four years ago at the age of 27 - featuring substantial home-movie footage and private snippets taken by others, with major talkover contributions from a number of those involved in her life, most notably her father, Mitchell, in addition to her friends, her music associates and collaborators - as well as her husband, Blake Fielder-Civil.
Her father has disowned this film on its release, despite his significant hand in providing material for it, on the grounds that it doesn't give a fair and balanced view, he claims, of the relationship between him and his daughter.
The film's director or, more accurately, compiler of the sequence of footages, is Asif Kapadia who made the well-received 2010 documentary 'Senna' (which, incidentally, bored me rigid). This 'Amy' is. for me, considerably more interesting.
There are no complete songs performed though we do see her at various venues, in the recording studios, sometimes singing privately. One aspect I really did like is that her words, otherwise practically indecipherable when she's singing, are shown on screen - and reveals what a profound and lyrical imagination she owned. Great shame that without knowing what she's singing about it gets lost in her warbling and wandering vocal style and mannerisms, which is for me one of the curses of today's pop-singing generation generally. This comes out markedly when, near the end of the film, we are shown her duetting with one of her life's idols, Tony Bennett. It's only very brief but the contrast between her and Bennett's singing style is so marked. With the latter one can hear every word, every syllable, but when she takes over it just becomes a fog of sound where articulation is relegated to unimportance, almost as though it's too much of a nuisance to be bothered with. It is indeed a tragedy because otherwise her voice, from the very start, had such power and weight. (With Ella Fitzgerald, another of her idols, one always could make out, although staying within the parameters of the jazz idiom, just what that great lady was singing about).
Apart from when Ms Winehouse is singing, there's hardly a moment when we see her without a glass of something or a cigarette (or something) in her hand. Her fighting against drugs and alcohol addictions and her attempts to become 'clean' are detailed, just about all of which has been well-publicised in the media - as well as her slavish and, perhaps, fatal adulation of her eventually imprisoned (for drug possession) husband, Fielder-Civil, who doubtless played a major part in her troubles. Her most spectacular decline in the full glare of cameras, was widely mocked by comedians of the time, some of whose clips are shown - and I must admit that then I most certainly would have at least smiled at the put-downs. She could hardly avoid her situation becoming public knowledge, though she and her minders did vainly try to shelter against them. There can hardly be any doubt that her premature death was a major loss of talent - as well as a dreadful loss to the world of show-business and music, the cause of which being not directly through drugs but rather through alcohol, though the former had, of course, played a major part in the weakening of her body's defences. Although there was an element of inevitability in her death, hers is yet another case of leaving us wondering how it all could have been so much different and so much better.
I think a lot of people will, like me, have known of Amy's life in broad terms. The film fills out some of the detail but I didn't think I learned anything significantly new about her. On the whole, though, I can think of worse ways to spend a couple of hours.........................................6.
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