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A far cry from Hollywood,
This review is from: David Hockney: A Bigger Picture (PAL with Subtitles) (DVD)
`I was brought up in Bradford and Hollywood' David Hockney says at the beginning of the film, when `Hollywood was at the end of the street in the local cinema'. Quoting Billy Wilder, he says, laughing, `Scratch the tinsel in Hollywood and you'll find the real tinsel underneath'. Bruno Wollheim got to scratch Hockney's tinsel over three years `at the end of a glittering career as he searches for a grand finale'. Approaching his seventies, Hockney came home to paint the Yorkshire Wolds when Wollheim began making what turned into this remarkable film, an intimate portrayal that covers a lot of ground in an hour.
From boy wonder to grand old man, this might have been a tale told in pictures, Hockney's life, from A Bigger Splash to A Bigger Picture. That was Wollheim's original idea. However, he has ended up with something far more interesting and original, a film of an artist at work. `After running on empty for a time in California he's gone back to his roots to revitalise his art.' Wollheim follows the process, as Hockney paints, smokes, eats, drinks, strolls along the promenade at Bridlington, and splashes around in his Wellingtons at the end of a muddy lane, making marks on canvas. And we get to travel with him. We see something vary rare, the speed and order in which an artist makes those marks.
Edgy, unpredictable, and initially unfocused, the film documents not only a new departure for Hockney, `painting as an extreme sport, outside, on the spot, in all weathers', it builds towards `a bigger sensation', one 600 square foot image over 50 canvases that fill the largest wall in the Royal Academy - a very `Hollywood idea', as Nicholas Serota comments; `it's Cinerama, to lose yourself in the landscape and to lose yourself in the space'.
Pro-smoking, anti-jogging, firing off letters about school inspectors reporting against the value of drawing, complaining about mean-spirited, petty politicians, it would be easy to portray Hockney as a curmudgeonly grumpy old man; a national treasure but one who is getting on a bit. He is certainly aware of his own mortality. Whereas the truth of this film is that he is `on a roll', as creative as ever, an infectious spirit who `still feels he has something to discover'. He quotes Van Gogh: `he had lost the face of his father but he had found another in the infinity of nature'.
It may be a far cry from Hollywood but he has come home.