He was a 19-year-old black graffiti artist who became the darling of the '80s New York art scene, then self-destructed at the age of 27. The film, directed by Basquiat's old friend and rival Julian Schnabel, announces itself as an insider's view with a soundtrack reportedly cobbled together from Basquiat's record collection (Tom Waits, Iggy Pop, Charlie Parker) and a cult clique of a cast (Bowie as Warhol, Hopper as the Swiss dealer Bruno Bischofberger), but it actually tells us little about the artist, the impulses behind his art, or what drove him to his death. Wright is supremely self-possessed in the title role, but Schnabel allows him to sail through life oblivious to anything save his talent. One scene with Christopher Walken, however, hits home. He's an intrusive journalist who asks Basquiat all the right questions, about colour, celebrity, and the true value of art. They don't speak the same language, but even if we only get half-answers, it's fascinating to see Basquiat's unease when he's really being pressed. Otherwise, this is just another tale of the perils of stardom overlaid with kitsch symbolism.
Cast and crew