A Bigger Splash
“Among the most strikingly original films on a modern artist” (Philip French, The Guardian), Jack Hazan’s A Bigger Splash (1974) dispenses with drab talking-head portraiture to create an intimate and innovative film about English-born, London-schooled, California-based artist David Hockney and his work that honors its subject through creative risk rather than slavish hagiography.
Fascinated as so many have been by the mystery and allure of Hockney’s art, Hazan (also director of Rude Boy) spent three years shooting A Bigger Splash, an improvisatory narrative-nonfiction hybrid featuring Hockney, a wary participant, as well his circle of friends, many subjects of his portraits, including British textile designer Celia Birtwell, fashion designer Ossie Clark, curator Henry Geldzahler, gallerist John Kasmin, and artist Patrick Procktor. The story that Hazan extracted from the reams of largely improvised material that he shot concerned the agonized end of the affair between Hockney and his muse, lover, and model, an American named Peter Schlesinger, caught with such disarming candor that Hockney was at first embarrassed of the results, though he would later come, in due time, to embrace the film.
Hazan’s film is too-little-seen masterpiece that begs revisiting for a number of reasons: it’s both a time capsule of hedonistic gay life in the 1970s and an honest-yet-tender depiction of gay male romance that dispenses with the then-current narratives of self-hatred and self-pity. It’s also an invaluable vantage on art history in action: Hockney can be seen putting the finishing touches on “Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures),” which sold for $18,000 back in 1972, but fetched $90.3 million at a Christie’s auction in November, 2018, setting a record for a living artist. To dwell on such mind-boggling figures, though, betrays the quiet and private quality of Hockney’s art, to which Hazan’s inspired docufiction so movingly attests, a record of artistic creation that is itself a work of art.
“For me, he [Hockney] touches the raw nerve of what cinema is about—even if he is actually talking about painting.” – filmmaker Olivier Assayas (Personal Shopper, Summer Hours)
“The best film ever made about a living artist” – artist Ed Ruscha
“One of the finest films I have seen about an artist and his work.” – filmmaker Martin Scorsese
“An original eye-opening film experience with an unexpected sense of humor.” – filmmaker Hal Ashby
“Intimacy which is nothing short of startling… defies comparison with any other art film or study in documentary biography.” – Film Comment
From Metrograph Pictures
- 6/25 | 8:00PM