Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures (2016)
Not having much of a background on the work of Robert Mapplethorpe, the controversy I was more familiar with was not the Jesse Helms led obvious panic from the right at the work's sexual nature but rather the critique from the left of a particular objectification of black men. As presented here, attempting a pretty full context of his work and his life, it seems difficult to buy into the leftist complaint since so much of his earlier work featuring white men is of a similar nature to his later focus on black men. As two models, one white and one black, who posed for a famous photo together note, Mapplethorpe's objectives were generally aesthetic and not political or heavily thematic. There isn't a rich subtext here, there is just artistry of composition and it is a valuable art. If the leftist complaint is wrong, Helms' complaint is spot on, this is definitely highly explicit material that would shock and offend prissy CINECAST!ers like Jesse Helms, which is why they should probably not go to art shows of this nature. My god, plenty of art is made that isn't for me; I don't go around saying it shouldn't exist. (Is this where pixote pulls the perfect quote from antiquity to prove I do say that?)
The film does feel overly long, often spending too much time in moments of Mapplethorpe's life that don't bring illumination of the work which is the real point of interest here. The more it contextualized and showed the work, the more I was involved. The more it dove into the workings of his personal life and path to success, the more I started checking the time. Ultimately it does end up on the positive side of the ledger and I feel better having this cultural lacuna filled in.