Robert Mapplethorpe’s art was shocking and provocative, and I, just like a lot of other people, would love to know what lurked in the mid of the obvious artistic genius. Ondi Timoner’s ‘Mapplethorpe’ tried to shed light on the man, but the filmmaker (and the film) tried to do too much, and accomplished next to nothing. She wrote the screenplay and perhaps tried to be too broad with it that the man depicted int he film seems like a bloody bore, and I refuse to believe he was such. Matt Smith (am I the only one who did not know who he is, never having seen an episode of ‘Doctor Who’) has great physical resemblance to Mapplethorpe. but is saddled with that lifeless script, so all effort is wasted. Patti Smith (played by Mariann Rendon) fares even worse. I mean, I read her book and know she is an interesting complicated character, but the Patti here is some kind of one-note character. To be fair, Timoner said on the Q & A after the film that the real Patti Smith refused to cooperate with the filmmaker. But there’s more than enough material out there.
When we do see the art, though, the film comes alive. I wish I was more acquainted with the richness of Mapplethorpe’s work, and now want to remedy that. It was interesting to see juxtapositions of the photograph with visual of how he shot them. And I give the film points for including some of the more provocative ‘X’ work. If for anything, it is not as shy as I thought it would be. (This ain’t no ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’)