A moving new documentary maps out the tragic inevitability of the singer's fateby Serena Kutchinsky / July 3, 2015 / Leave a comment
At Glastonbury this year, the late night chat turned to one famous face whose absence saddened us all: Amy Winehouse. She of the beehive, tattoos, bad boyfriends and, most importantly, that distinctive, whisky-fuelled, jazz growl that propelled the North London Jewish girl to global stardom before she died in 2011. This year, the conversation focused less on memories of past gigs, and more on a controversial new film, that charts her rise and fall.
Amy is directed by BAFTA winner Asif Kapadia, whose previous films include Senna, his acclaimed portrait of the life of Formula 1 driver Ayrton Senna. For Amy he uses the same collage-style documentary technique—weaving together clips from unseen home movies, interviews with family and friends, as well as the backstage footage of a bedraggled and emaciated Winehouse that were splashed across the press towards the end of her life. Kapadia successfully blurs the boundaries between straight documentary and biopic, bringing this talented and tragic figure, with her heavy Cleopatra eye make-up and mockney twang, back to life.
This is an Amy Winehouse we never knew. The funny, feisty teenager who plays a killer game of pool, does her make-up backstage in the loos of tiny jazz clubs and is desperate to move out of her mum’s house so she can smoke weed. The girl who used music to escape the pain of her parents’ divorce, which, contrary to her father Mitch Winehouse’s view as expressed in the film, she clearly struggled with—citing it as a trigger of the depression and bulimia that plagued her later years.
Much of the film’s most memorable footage is provided by her former manager and life-long friend Nick Shymansky, who met Winehouse when she was 16. He was clearly devoted to her. His wedding was scheduled to take place the day after she died on 23rd July 2011. Their relationship soured around the time she began her on-off affair with her future husband Blake Fielder-Civil, who admits to introducing her to hard drugs. They wanted to disappear into their own world, but their excessive substance abuse turned the romance toxic.
Shymanasky was the first of Winehouse’s inner circle…