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Basquiat Reviews

First, the good news. Painter turned director Julian Schnabel does far better with his first movie than Robert Longo or David Salle did with theirs: JOHNNY MNEMONIC and SEARCH AND DESTROY, respectively. Schnabel at least manages to tell a fairly coherent story. The bad news: It's not a very interesting story, and Schnabel doesn't have the chops to make it one by sheer strength of filmmaking prowess. Jean-Michel Basquiat (Jeffrey Wright), who died at the age of 27 of a heroin overdose, was a go-go '80s phenomenon, an African-American graffiti artist whose work enchanted all the right people, probably for all the wrong reasons. Schnabel, who was Basquiat's friend, takes great pains to re-create the haunts of New York artists and art groupies: Cocktail parties at Mary Boone's (Parker Posey), hanging with Andy Warhol (David Bowie), dinner at Mr. Chow's, dancing at the Mudd Club. It's clear he misses it all terribly, but he seems to have been too busy partying to have had time for any thoughts about Basquiat, either as a person or a phenomenon. The result is a cliched rags-to-riches story, tarted up with Filmmaking 101 silliness.