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Laura Blum

Laura is a festival correspondent covering films and the festival circuit for She also publishes on Thalo



"Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat" at the 55th New York Film Festival


“For many forward-thinking people, the age of the white male was already over,” reflects curator Diego Cortez in Sara Driver’s documentary Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat. With that Cortez, who co-founded TriBeCa’s iconic Mudd Club, sums up the Downtown New York scene of the late 70s and early 80s.

Context is king in this portrait of the artist as young man. Like James Joyce’s Künstlerroman of Stephen Dedalus, it follows the aesthetic awakenings of a youth rebelling against convention. Basquiat too pledged to “forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race,” only the language of that pledge spanned graffiti, music and hip-hop imagery, and the race in question experienced social injustice and marginalization. Basquiat and Dedalus shared other traits as well: Both had major ambition and mythology.

Basquiat was 27 years old when he fatally overdosed on heroin in 1988. In the intervening three decades, his star has only risen. This past May his 1982 Untitled graffiti painting of a skull ka-chinged $110.5 million at Sotheby’s, breaking the auction record for an American artist, and across the pond London’s Brutalist Barbican is mounting an exhibition echoically entitled Basquiat: Boom for Real. Moreover Driver’s doc is hardly the first film about Basquiat: Two that pop to mind are Julian Schnabel’s 1996 biopic Basquiat and Tamra Davis's 2010 Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child, which centers on the artist’s heyday in the limelight.

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