Mapplethorpe feature film includes plenty of titillation and drama but not enough of the man himself

The Art Newspaper | David D’Arcy

After multiple documentaries about Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-89), there is finally a narrative film on the brash photographer who didn’t blink in his erotic black and white images of black and white men. The feature, starring the British actor Matt Smith (known for his roles on Dr Who and The Crown), premiered last week at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Mapplethorpe became the anti-Christ in the US culture wars of the late 1980s and early 90s. His name was synonymous with what the conservative Right found objectionable in contemporary art. A museum director who programmed a Mapplethorpe retrospective in 1990 was arrested, prosecuted, and eventually acquitted.

Yet the film-maker Ondi Timoner’s bio-pic, Mapplethorpe, supported by the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, focuses on the man rather than on his legacy. There’s still plenty of sturm und drang, and the man who was a hero for his views on freedom of expression emerges as ruthlessly and recklessly ambitious…read more

Image: Matt Smith as Robert Mapplethorpe