The thing you learn from this in-depth doc about New York photographer Robert Mapplethorpe is how much of a trail he blazed. In the 1970s and ’80s, politicians and people who live to be morally outraged condemned his gay S&M photography as ugly and obscene. Mapplethorpe was defiant, refusing to hide a thing.
We see many of his photographs here (including the notoriously explicit X Portfolio) for what they are: as beautiful and breathtaking as classic sculpture – and no more explicit than images shared on Grindr these days. Mapplethorpe, who died from Aids-related complications in 1989, aged 42, was no tortured artist. Ambitious and self-absorbed, he chased fame and money. As one friend puts it: ‘He wanted to be a legend.’ The filmmakers interview his lovers, family and collaborators. The only person missing is Patti Smith, his soulmate, one-time lover and lifelong friend.