After Senna, director Kapadia once again explores a beloved public figure as tragic hero: this time, the late Amy Winehouse. The documentary traces her rise to fame and premature demise, placing her own lyrics next to her biographical details, in particular her tumultuous relationship with ex-husband Blake Fielder-Civil.
Most of the time, the interviewees’ voices, instead of being attached to visual images of talking heads, are juxtaposed with archival footage, recordings of live performances and previously unseen private video footage shot mainly by family and (boy)friends. Winehouse is thus omnipresent throughout the film, which absorbs the viewer into a trance-like state.
By highlighting the world of music in the Grammy winner’s life, the film succeeds in being critical yet non-judgmental, sharp yet warm. Through a raw, unpretentious portrait of the legendary performer it captures the current zeitgeist – the blood-thirsty tabloid culture, the double-edged sword of fame, the relationship between the pop music scene and drug abuse – beautifully. Without finger-pointing or any attempt at over-interpretation, it manages to be both heartbreaking and life-embracing. A guaranteed emotional roller-coaster ride which remains extremely humane.
Amy | Directed by Asif Kapadia (UK 2015) documentary. Starts July 16.
Originally published in issue #140, July/August 2015.