Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Jean-Michel Basquiat…..Amy Winehouse (1983-2011), all died at the age of 27; supernovas extinguished by their own manufactured flames. Asif Kapadia’s stunning, brutally honest documentary about the doomed talent resonates to the core with the unadulterated pain of an unprotected, over-exposed ego; Amy was a one-dimensional individual, supremely gifted with a voice to rock the universe; blending jazz, soul, R&B, lyrics from the depths of her agonizing, excruciating existence, lifestyle; her genius led to her destruction and “Amy” takes the viewer on her path to perdition.
A troubled, recalcitrant British teen, uses her body as a canvas of defiance: tattooing, piercing, molding her persona; burgeoning notoriety crucified any chance of developing beyond her fame; lacking the mettle of a “Barbra Streisand”, “Ella Fitzgerald” she withers exponentially as her success accelerates; drugs and alcohol protect and punish simultaneously; self-flagellation, abasement, bulimia, aids to her eventual demise.
Her life, informed by its ephemerality, is splayed across the screen, aching intensity from those who knew, worked with and loved Amy; girlfriends, lovers, husband, managers, bodyguard, family have their “fifteen” minutes; pathetically all witness her wholesomeness diminish into a lithesome, fragile, brittle, bony, broken body and desecrated spirit .
Paul Cezanne said Claude Monet was only an “eye, but my God, what an eye”; Amy Winehouse was only a “voice”; five time Grammy winner, her voice, a musical legacy, is all that’s left; that will have to suffice.