A tribute to a lost talent

by Staff Reporter

2007 brought with it a tabloid storm for Amy Winehouse. It seemed that almost every week the usual sensationalist papers were happy to print yet another intrusive front page depicting the star in the midst of obvious personal turmoil.
The most famous and unpleasant example featured pictures of her stumbling out of a night club with then husband Blake Fielder-Civil. She is bandaged and bloodied, mascara smearing her face.
Just a year after the release of her critically and commercially acclaimed second album, Back To Black, Amy Winehouse had become a hounded, tragic figure on a road to self-destruction. Her rise from emerging jazz singer to chart topping super star was a sudden and obviously jolting one. Four years later she died of complications due to drug and alcohol abuse.
When it was announced that a feature length documentary was due to be made about the singer’s short life, there were doubts from family, friends and fans that it would simply be rehashing past intrusions on a person who famously struggled with fame.
Funded by Universal Music and given an eventual seal of approval by the Winehouse family, the production team behind it was a factor which led to the green light for the film, Amy, to be made.
With a view to giving a more rounded and honest portrayal of who Amy Winehouse was, director Asif Kapadia and producer James Gay-Rees gathered over 2,000 hours of footage for the movie.
In a similar approach to their 2010 BAFTA winning documentary, Senna, a lot of the content featured early home recordings, interviews and archive footage.
The result is very personal and gripping, despite or perhaps especially given how we know it is all going to end.
A haunting moment in the film comes early on, when a 14-year-old Amy playfully sings happy birthday to her friend.
Even then her voice displays the rich textures and seamless control of a professional jazz singer as the camera pans to her flabbergasted, almost embarrassed friends.
From there it traces an often bumpy journey to fame. In a prophetic interview early in her singing career, when asked about the path she is going down, Amy says: “I don’t think I’m going to be at all famous. I don’t think I could handle it. I would probably go mad.”
The film does succeed in giving more of an insight into who Amy Winehouse was.
It outlines an enigmatic character that struggled with personal issues of depression and bulimia from a very early age.
One voice that has been critical of their own depiction in the movie is Amy’s father Mitch Winehouse.
He is at times portrayed as opportunistic, at one point taking his own documentary crew to an island where his daughter was in rehab and taking a break from the media.
The film’s style and technique are engaging, avoiding the standard talking heads interview style, instead choosing to concentrate on voices and footage to tell the story.
The meticulous approach from the filmmakers also seemed to grant them the trust of some the central characters in Amy’s life. Throughout the film, voices of her closest friends and family weave in and out with personal and honest accounts. Many of those featured had, out of respect, previously shunned all press.
It’s hard to say how Amy would have felt about the movie herself, given her dislike of intense media attention.
Whether you are a fan of her music or not, Amy is a tragic, compelling, humorous and sad portrayal of an iconic talent.

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