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Hockney | 2014 London BFI Film Festival Review

Eight Days a Week: Hockney Doc Shows Artist’s Colorful Life

Guiding auds through his career from his early days growing up in Bradford, to moving to Los Angeles in the sixties, influential British artist David Hockney’s life is laid bare in Randall Wright’s titular Hockney. Although there have been documentaries following Hockney before, recently Make Your Own Damn Art! (John Rodgers, 2013) and Waiting for Hockney (Billy Pappas, 2008), this is the first documentary to give a full picture of his upbringing, his influences and to interview the artist himself as well as his dearest friends. The result is an intimate portrait of an intriguing man, whose cheeky spirit and sense of fun hasn’t yet diminished, despite now living a relatively quiet life in Los Angeles.

Now 77-years-old, it’s obvious that Hockney enjoys his privacy, and doesn’t like having his life displayed in public as his art is. Like any great artist, he’s lived an unusual and varied life, meeting wild characters and experiencing the world in his own unique way. The director Hockney entrusted to document his life is Randall Wright, who previously made a TV biopic of Hockney ten years ago, entitled: ‘David Hockney: Secret Knowledge‘, so returns to similar territory here. Wright portrays Hockney both as an artist he respects and admires, and as one of the most important and influential artists of the 20th century. Using archive photographs and home movies made by Hockney and friends throughout his life, the film that emerges is a visual diary, inviting the audience to share some the best memories of an inspiring man.

We are introduced to some of Hockney’s closest friends, including Wayne Sleep and George Lawson, who posed for the artist in 1972. Celia Birtwell is also interviewed, guiding the audience through all of Hockney’s paintings she appeared in, such as Celia with Green Hat and Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy.

One of the most enjoyable characteristics of the film is its ability to transport the viewer into one of the paintings, showing the world they way Hockney sees it. Cutting between a close up of a canvas and a poolside scene, the likeness of the painting to its inspiration, (despite its pop art style), is undeniable. An entire chapter is spent examining the different depictions of water – still water “Autumn Pool”, moving water “Peter getting out of Nick’s pool” and the famed splash painting, “The Big Splash”.

Perhaps surprisingly, Hockney speaks for the first time about his experiences being a gay man living through the AIDS epidemic in the 80s. He talks candidly about friends that died of the disease, and how he retreated from public life to his Malibu home.

Overall, Randall’s documentary is the most revealing documentary yet of Hockney’s character. It gives fans of his work the chance to watch him in his most natural state; at the easel.

Reviewed on October 9th at the 2014 London BFI Film Festival – Documentary Competition. 113 Minutes


Flossie is a London-based freelance film critic for, Screen International, Grolsch Film Works and Universal Film Magazine. She is also the editor of Critics Associated ( She studied film theory at St Andrews University and has a Master's in online journalism. Top Films From Contempory Film Auteurs: Hogg (Archipelago), Leigh (Happy-Go-Lucky), Winterbottom (Everyday), Meadows (This is England), Ayoade (Submarine), Malick (Days of Heaven), Audiard (Rust and Bone), Linklater (Slacker), Swanberg (Nights and Weekends).

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