In Hockney, director Randall Wright weaves together a portrait of the multifaceted artist from frank interviews with close friends and never before seen footage from his own personal archive. One of the great surviving icons of the 1960s, Hockney’s career may have started with almost instant success but in private he has struggled with his art, relationships, and the tragedy of AIDS, making his optimism and sense of adventure truly uplifting.
“Wright’s film is mostly intrigued by the making of Hockney: where on earth this half-wry, half-shy Andy Warhol/Alan Bennett crossbreed could have possibly sprung from (answer: postwar Bradford), and what kind of strange climate would allow his peculiar talents to flourish (1960s Los Angeles, with a brief warm-up in New York City).
Hockney is now 77 years old, and the famous straw-gold hair has faded to grey, but he’s a sharp and engaging interviewee, and talks openly and honestly about his work. Friends, colleagues and contemporaries, including Celia Birtwell and Ed Ruscha, also contribute anecdotes. Home videos shot by Hockney show us scenes and moments that he would later incorporate into his work.
What’s odd is the more you see of them, the more Hockneyish the world starts to look. A fuzzy clip from the late 1980s shows waves churning behind a window, then pans down to a china teapot sitting on a table indoors – and even before Wright cuts to the painting inspired by that moment, Breakfast at Malibu, Sunday, you can sense exactly how the quivery fragility of the teapot will be, and the way the spindly window-frames will split up and hold back the rolling ocean outside. The really familiar pictures, such as A Bigger Splash, are withheld until we discover enough about Hockney’s image-making process to see new things in them.
‘Everyone is looking all the time; you just have to train yourself to look harder,’ Hockney explains. This warm, affectionate, perceptive film makes looking harder look easy.” (Robbie Collin, The Telegraph)
“This is a sunny, admiring documentary about the British (and Los Angeles) treasure David Hockney, who remains productive at 77, is candid and entertaining in interview segments and seems utterly content and grateful for the life he’s had and the artistry he’s been gifted with.” (Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times)
“Hockney is a little work of art of its own.” (April Wolfe, Village Voice)