July 10, 2015 9:07:31 pm
A Few minutes into Amy, Asif Kapadia’s documentary on the life and times of British singer Amy Winehouse, there’s a footage of 17-year-old Winehouse sitting in the waiting room at Island Records. The voice-over of an executive at the record label recounts how he was waiting for her to sing. “I wanted her to be good,” he says and almost immediately Winehouse launches into Love is Blind, a cheeky song about infidelity. You see a petite young woman and hear a voice that is more powerful, more soulful than anybody ever imagined it would be. Ten years later, Winehouse would die in 2011, from alcohol poisoning, leaving behind a global career, a fatal addiction to drugs and alcohol, and some of the most moving songs about love, longing and loss written in these times.
The story of Amy Winehouse is the tragic coming-of-age story of celebrity in the age of constant self-documentation, tabloid journalism, paparazzi, and the internet.Amy begins with a home video shot in 1998; young Winehouse is as goofy and hedonistic as she will be at the height of her career, mouthing off to her friends.
Kapadia interviewed the late singer’s friends, family, label executives, managers, producers and bandmates, amassing several hours of home videos, photographs, unseen archive footage and unreleased songs. He uses Winehouse’s interviews to the media, as well as the retrospective interviews as voice-overs to stitch together the life of a girl with a big, full-throated voice; whose undeniable, prodigious talent saw a star unsteadily ascend to glory and then spiral into a self-destructive haze of flimsy love affairs and substance abuse. Even before fame came knocking, Winehouse is remarkably self-aware when she says to an interviewer, “I don’t think I’m going to be at all famous. I don’t think I could handle it. I’d go mad, do you know what I mean? I’d go mad”.
At the heart of the film is Winehouse’s music — each song tell us of her follies and foibles (You know I’m No Good), her desperation to find a love ever-after (Love is a Losing Game), and her biggest hit, Rehab.
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Kapadia’s use of the paparazzi’s footage, talk show jokes about Winehouse, her father Mitch’s TV show that cashed in on her celebrity, her lover’s sombre introspection, her failed performances, make for uncomfortable viewing. His camera takes a long, unflinching look into Winehouse’s tribulations, the solace she sought in cocaine, heroin and alcohol, and never makes excuses for the singer. But neither does it absolve us of the part we play in fuelling a celebrity culture that revels in constant scrutiny, oscillating between fierce love and withering contempt.
Director: Asif Kapadia
Cast: Amy Winehouse, Blake Fielder-Civil, Mitchell Winehouse,Yasiin Bey, and others
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