‘Life teaches you how to live it, if you live long enough…’
I never really bought into Amy Winehouse first time round, despite the fact that her peak years coincided with a time in which I was still very much embroiled in the music scene. The days of devouring every word of the music press and seeking out new bands are pretty much over for me now, but in the mid ’00s, I was still pretty clued up. I always saw Winehouse as being ‘just’ pop music. Grown up pop music, but pop music nevertheless. I was surprised at the huge outpouring of grief over her death in 2011, and while I have softened on her music in subsequent years, it still felt like I was outside the cult of Amy. Until now…
Acclaimed documentary maker Asif Kapadia (Diego Maradona, Senna) documents the peaks and many troughs of a troubled career through the use of archive footage, photographs and extensive interviews.
Kapadia paints a picture of Amy Winehouse as a girl at once immature, and yet wise beyond her years. An old soul. A singer absolutely besotted with the music but bewildered and broken by the fame machine that comes with it. A strong, independent woman who was easily manipulated and controlled by those who purported to have loved her most. Amy Winehouse was a mess of contradictions. She was a superstar. She was a London girl. She was an artist. Even Tony Bennett said so.
Amy seemingly encompasses every facet of its source material, as it is repeatedly made clear that Winehouse was not someone to hide her feelings. Often her joy, warmth and inevitable despair are etched all over her face. She was a troubled troubadour who was dragged down into the inky depths by a series of hangers on and low lives. A once-in-a-lifetime talent with all too common vices and coping mechanisms.
Amy captures a genius in her prime and after it. A spellbinding documentary that is worthy of its subject matter.