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Rediff.com  » Movies » Review: Amy is a fitting tribute

Review: Amy is a fitting tribute

July 10, 2015 09:18 IST

The Amy posterThere’s enough emotion in every single frame to break your heart, Paloma Sharma says after watching Asif Kapadia's documentary Amy.

Award-winning British filmmaker Asif Kapadia returns with the team that gave us Senna (2010), with a powerful yet sensitive portrayal of the rise and fall of the late singer-songwriter, Amy Winehouse.

Compiled by putting together unreleased home videos, interviews of the late songstress, her friends and family and footage from paparazzi cameras, Kapadia’s documentary opens with a video of a teenaged Winehouse showing off her vocal skills at a friend's party.

Winehouse strikes as goofy yet aware of the power she has over others.

We see something darker behind her big, bright green eyes lined with that signature winged kohl.

The way teenaged Amy twirls and makes faces at the camera reminds me of the girl described in the song Carmen by Lana del Rey -- a musician, who, incidentally, has been heavily influenced by Winehouse.

The film progresses to Winehouse’s accidental entry onto the music scene and her rise to the top. Shades of tragedy accentuate the story of her success from the very beginning.

The film seeks to probe into how being brought up in a broken home led Winehouse to go through a string of troubled romantic relationships, the most troubled of all being her marriage with Blake Fielder-Civil -- a relationship that is often cited as the beginning of the end for the singer.

Amy Winehouse’s life in the spotlight and her untimely demise in 2011 from alcohol poisoning has been well publicised so we all know how Amy is going to end.

However, Amy is intriguing, it plays out more like a journey of a lifetime than an ending which must be arrived at urgently.

The extensive research that has gone into this project is commendable -- Kapadia has put together all available videos of the late Grammy winner and built a narrative with excerpts from hundreds of interviews conducted with Winehouse’s family, friends, colleagues and even journalists who interviewed her.

The crane-mounted camera creates powerful shots of the locations pivotal to the late singer’s life, swooping in and out, often with deafening silence in the background to let important facets of Amy’s life sink in in the viewer’s mind.

The film is brilliantly edited, too.

Each scene is strongly connected to the next and even substandard footage and pictures from cameras belonging to persons known to Winehouse have been placed so perfectly, they seem more artful than amateur.

Amy is all about Amy but it has all come together (well, mostly) because of Kapadia. He takes the viewer through the life of the troubled singer, looking beyond Winehouse’s bad reputation and examines, instead, what led her to the downward spiral. He builds a special connection between the audience and Amy as he explores her life through her songs.

Neatly scribbled words pop up on the edges of the screen or the camera looms over a hurried, determined writing on the pages of a diary, as Winehouse’s achingly soulful voice lingers in the background.

There’s enough emotion in every single frame to break your heart.

Watching Amy feels like retrieving a special, hidden box of pictures and videos and other souvenirs that once belonged to someone whose loss one still grieves.

A fitting tribute to the lady who made jazz and the blues both interesting and accessible to a generation that couldn’t comprehend Miles Davis or Dinah Washington, Amy will make you wonder why we are so critical of icons we swear to love.

Rediff Rating: 

Paloma Sharma in Mumbai