A Bigger Splash (1974)
$12 General Admission
Since the astonishing $90 million sale of David Hockney’s Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), Jack Hazan’s A Bigger Splash is a film whose time has come again. About and starring Hockney and his swinging friends, this immersive, formally daring work was shot over the course of three years when the artist was creating his most recognizable paintings, including Portrait of an Artist and the eponymous A Bigger Splash. Embedded in Hockney’s world and fascinated by his art, Hazan charts the course of Hockney’s romance and breakup with Peter Schlesinger, the model for Portrait of an Artist, and achieves a hypnotic intimacy with Hockney’s inner circle of friends, lovers, and fellow artists. Always at the center, however, is Hockney. Now in his mid-thirties, trademark oversized spectacles firmly in place, he has already been crowned one of his generation’s supreme painters. At fashion shows, art openings, and cocktail parties, we see a Hockney who, while always witty and good-natured, retains an air of mystery. Mentally, he is never far from his studio.
Partially scripted and loosely plotted, the main characters playing versions of themselves, Splash works on many levels. A document of glamor, love, sex, and creativity in early-1970s London and New York, the film also stages sustained encounters with Hockney’s art, coming up against the hard boundary between painting and film. In doing so, it creates some indelible cinematic moments: a nude man climbs out of a pool and, dripping, caresses the mounted head of a moose; Hockney holds a lit Zippo to a canvas and stares while a crystal mobile clacks and tinkles. Pitched on the edge between documentary and fiction, between romance, biography, and experimental film, whatever A Bigger Splash is, it is a brave and original artist portrait, and an indispensable artifact of its time.
Description courtesy of Martin Schwartz; all images on this page courtesy of Metrograph Pictures.
“For me, he [Hockney] touches the raw nerve of what cinema is about—even if he is actually talking about painting.” – filmmaker Olivier Assayas (Personal Shopper, Summer Hours)
“The best film ever made about a living artist” – artist Ed Ruscha
“One of the finest films I have seen about an artist and his work.” – filmmaker Martin Scorsese
“An original, eye-opening film experience with an unexpected sense of humor.” – filmmaker Hal Ashby
“Intimacy which is nothing short of startling… defies comparison with any other art film or study in documentary biography.” – Film Comment