Friday, June 10, 2011

Iconoclastic Artist Bio-pics: Ginsberg, Mishima, Gould, Pollack, Bruce

Last week's inclusion of Julien Schnabel's Basquiat in the Miramax independents post started me thinking about other artist bio-pics that are currently streaming on Netflix Watch Instantly.

Howl (Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman, US, 2010, 84 minutes)
Netflix: James Franco steps into the shoes of famed Beat poet Allen Ginsberg in this star-studded biopic centered around Ginsberg's poem "Howl" -- and the widely publicized obscenity trial that followed its publication in 1957. Documentarians Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (The Times of Harvey Milk) direct, with an A-list ensemble cast that includes Jon Hamm, David Strathairn, Jeff Daniels and Mary-Louise Parker. Netflix link.

Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (Paul Schrader, US, 1985, 121 minutes)
Netflix: Director Paul Schrader and composer Philip Glass present a literate, sweeping chronicle of the life and work of controversial and challenging Japanese author and militarist Yukio Mishima, who committed suicide in 1970. The film is divided into thematic chapters, with color sequences illustrating scenes from Mishima's most famous fictional works and black-and-white sequences recreating moments from his tormented personal life. Netflix link.

32 Short Films about Glenn Gould (Francois Girard, Canada, 1993, 93 minutes)
Netflix: Glenn Gould was a master pianist and radio innovator who mysteriously stopped touring in 1964 at the height of his success. Instead of a linear biopic, director Francois Girard takes an avant-garde approach to capture Gould's essence. Through 32 short vignettes -- ranging from factual to fanciful -- Girard highlights Gould's personality and genius. The film won four Genie awards, including Best Picture. Netflix link.

Pollack (Ed Harris, US, 2000, 123 minutes)
Netflix: Tortured abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock turned the art world on its ear with his shockingly original paintings. As played here by Ed Harris (who also directed), he's alternately neurotic, misogynistic and brilliant. The Oscar-winning film follows Pollock from the launch of his career by Peggy Guggenheim (Amy Madigan) through his marriage to fellow artist Lee Krasner (Marcia Gay Harden) -- a union tested by his infidelity and alcoholism. Netflix link.

Lenny (Bob Fosse, US, 1974, 111 minutes)
Netflix: Dustin Hoffman stars as the notorious Lenny Bruce in director Bob Fosse's dramatic biopic chronicling the short life and career of the controversial stand-up comedian, which garnered six Oscar nominations. Bruce's complex character is captured, from his beginnings as a Catskills comic to his rising popularity, his courting of Honey (Valerie Perrine), his anti-establishment politics and the humor that put him at odds with obscenity laws. Netflix link.

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