Something’s Shocking: Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures – A Miami Film Festival review


mapplethorpe-472 Miami Dade College’s 33rd Miami International Film Festival opens tomorrow and with it comes a series of exciting movies, some of which we have already previewed.  Below Ana Morgenstern gives us a capsule review of the East Coast Premiere of Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures:

In this in-depth look at one of the most controversial and respected modern photographers, Robert Mapplethorpe, we get a glimpse of the high personal costs of being a visionary. With Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures, directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato dig into the motivations and personal life of Mapplethorpe through archival footage, original interviews and a closer look at those controversial photos that garnered praise and condemnation for the artist.

Taken out of context from the Jesse Helms rant that inspires the title,“Look at the Pictures” is in itself a way of representing the artist beyond judgment. The filmmakers cover a wealth of information from childhood Catholic influences to his artistic awakening at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn to a life-changing relationship with Patti Smith.


The documentary, which starts and ends with Helms’ controversial speech to Congress that took place after Mapplethrorpe’s passing of AIDS in 1989, does not feel one-sided. At times you feel for the artist and that his inquiry into human sexuality was a worthy pursuit. Others, he comes across as a petty narcissist. The pacing of the documentary is right on target to keep you engaged, while also inviting a chance to contemplate the breadth of his work, which includes stunning images of flowers as well as those sexually explicit photos that continue to shock, like all great art should.

mapplethorpe-9-USE-THIS-ONE72-104x104 Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures is one of those documentaries that deserves viewing on the big screen. Having seen one of the Mapplethorpe exhibits at the LACMA a couple of years ago, understanding the motivations and impact of these images was a draw for me, but for those unfamiliar with this artist, the documentary offers an easy entry to a controversial artist.

Ana Morgenstern

Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures runs 108 minutes and is not rated (but, like Mapplethorpe’s exhibitions, is for adults). Two viewings of the documentary are scheduled as part of the festival. The screenings will take place on Saturday, March 5 at 6:30 p.m., and on Saturday March 12 at 7:00 p.m., both at the Regal Cinemas on Lincoln Road. For tickets click here. The festival has also just opened its very own Mapplethorpe Art Gallery that will run for the opening weekend of the festival in celebration of the premiere of the film at Miami Dade College’s Wolfson Campus in Downtown Miami. Details are here.

(Copyright 2016 by Ana Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.