Thursday, July 16, 2015
"Amy": a tragic story of a singer
“Amy”, directed by Asif Kapadia, is a long but ultimately gripping documentary of the life of British jazz singer and songwriter Amy Winehouse (1983-2011). Amy started out life as precocious, living in her own flat as a teen, but her course in life would be undermined by intractable addiction to alcohol and drugs, accompanies even by bulimia.
The film starts out slowly, with a lot of fuzzy old footage, but becomes compelling as this gifted young woman is unable to deal with fame, attention, and the recursive fixes of substance abuse. I didn’t actually know the tragic outcome when I saw the film, as her genre is not my own (which is more classical).
There are several interventions, and at one point Universal sends her a letter threatening to deny her any more business unless she submits to medical supervision and drug testing. Doctors tell her that the build-up of various drugs in her system threaten her with cardiac arrest and sudden death at any time, even though she is in her 20s. Her life is managed by others, which is part of her problem.
Eventually, her managers whisk her away to a rehab concert in Belgrade, Serbia – and the images of the city at night near the concert hall are quite compelling visually. She has a total meltdown on the stage. (I thought about the recent film about Glen Campbell.) When he returns to London, she soon is found dead in her palatial house of alcohol poisoning.
Personally, this downward spiral into drugs isn’t part of my own repertoire. At one time, when growing up, I did not envy media stars because I, like many in my generation, perceived them as “spoiled” and “immoral”. But as I became an author myself and mixed more with media people, not just musicians but also including many in acting, directing, and film production, I certainly developed an interest in “being there” myself. It would seem hard to get anywhere in major media without self-discipline, which alcohol and drugs would undermine. Indeed, the people I know personally seem to have the right kind of self-control, because I’ve never really encountered this among people I know.
The official site (from A24 Films) is here.
I saw the film late today at Regal Ballston Common in Arlington before a small audience.
Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Belgrade nightlife, by NinoBeg, under Creative Commons Share Alike 3.0 license.