A lot of music has passed me by over the last decade or two. A general disenchantment with the ongoing deterioration of mainstream music inevitably leads to taking one’s eye off the ball and in so doing, there’s always the danger that something special’s going to slip past.
Quite how what ultimately came to be the Amy Winehouse circus managed to slip me by, relatively unnoticed, remains a mystery.
‘Amy’ is a very slick re-telling of the tragically short life and career of Amy Winehouse, who, in fairness was revered as an artist both during her lifetime and perhaps even more so in the years following her untimely demise.
It’s pieced together from substantial footage sourced from friends, her first manager and official sources which instantly elevates ‘Amy’ well above the kind of sanitised output we might expect from a TV documentary. There’s also Asif Kapadia’s directorial decision to, by and large, dispense with talking heads, instead a wide range of those that played a part in her life, provide an audio commentary to compliment the visual footage. It’s nothing revolutionary, but it works well and helps keep the majority of emotional emphasis on Amy and her very visible reactions to her fast, unraveling world.
It’s a familiar tale of a young, vibrant soul with the world at their feet, ultimately worn down and corrupted by success, fame and all of the associated trappings. What is shocking however, and granted it’s very much the way this film has been cut, is just how many people were guilty of sticking the proverbial boot in when Amy was at her lowest ebb. Whether meant in jest or otherwise, it seems an entire industry of Amy Winehouse-knocking became de rigeur, be that the light-hearted quips of light entertainers, the savage flash popping of an omnipresent, relentless paparazzi and their media pay masters or worse still, exploitation by those closest to her; those she really trusted and depended upon.
Certainly her father and ex-husband don’t do themselves any favours from what the historic footage reveals.
Of course Amy, at times, did herself no favours and made, as we all do, poor life choices; it’s just that the majority of us don’t live in a fish bowl in the midst of an hysterical media feeding frenzy, accentuating our every wrong move, magnifying each and every twist and turn.
Mercifully, the rather reverential tone of ‘Amy’ the documentary has an overwhelming sense of awe, love and appreciation for her music and life, allowing viewers to truly immerse themselves in her talent and the uplifting positives of her all too short career.
One such positive sees Amy interviewed by a well-meaning radio host who attempts to draw comparisons and lump her into the same category with the rather pedestrian sounds and lyrical content of Dido. Amy’s reactions are priceless. She was a million miles from such banality and she knew it.
As an immensely talented, yet very troubled individual, it’s arguable that success alone bred trouble. Would she have got caught up in such a spiral of self-destructive behaviour if she’d had just a small fraction of the fame and adulation? We’ll never know, but ‘Amy’ offers a glimpse into her talent and makes us all too aware what a tragic loss her death is to the music industry and to the world in general.
A beautiful, must see documentary.