With an intimate collection of home videos and interviews, Asif Kapadia’s biopic has reopened discussions of one of the most unique and misunderstood voices of our generation. But we don’t need a film to understand Amy Winehouse. Her cockney wordsmith wizardry and raw lyrical ability mean that her troubled life story has been engraved all along, within the grooves of ‘Frank’ and the incredible ‘Back To Black’.
The truth is: Amy Winehouse never wanted to be famous. ‘Amy’ provides a window into a reclusive soul, completely obsessed with the joy of music, who accepted her five Grammy awards in 2008 with a sense of embarrassment and disbelief. Her example showed musicians across the globe that popularity means nothing without the confidence in your own material.
In a decade that oversaw the rise of TV talent shows and over commercialised pop groups, it remains an admirable fact that Amy refused to be moulded by anybody but herself. Throughout her career she maintained a musical integrity that completely contrasted the fragile and fiendish figure of a degrading society that the media forged her into. As a result, public attention leapfrogged her blatant talent and outstanding vocal ability to focus on her instabilities. In short, Amy Winehouse became a topic of taboo rather than immediately recognised for the immeasurable gift she had.
Kapdia’s production emphasises this. Whilst the soundtrack, breathtaking when played at full volume through the cinema’s surround sound speakers, carries the film for its duration, as the theme of drugs becomes increasingly prevalent, the music becomes more subdued. We truly see the musical spirit and passion that such a tragically early death stole from the world.
‘Amy’ is not a justification of a lifestyle but a celebration of an artist, capturing a refined musical elegance that is unlikely to be reproduced elsewhere. But it leaves us with a more concerning message by identifying how modern transformations of personalities into celebrities hinders artists’ musical purity, stifles their flame and fades them back to black.
For more on Amy Winehouse and Kapadia’s Amy, see The Gryphon – Arts section.