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Boom For Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 9, 2020

Boom for Real: The Late Teenaged Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat


Featuring Alexis Adler, Al Diaz, Fred Brathwaite aka Fab 5 Freddy, Lee Quiñones, Felice Rosser, Jennifer Jazz, Luc Sante, Carlo McCormick, Glenn O’Brien, Michael Holman, Jim Jarmusch, James Nares, Coleen Fitzgibbon, Kenny Scharf, Sur Rodney (Sur), Patricia Field, Mary-Ann Monforton, Diego Cortez, Bud Kliment and archival footage of Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Directed by Sara Driver.

Distributed by Magnolia Pictures. 78 minutes. Not Rated.

Long before current day Disney-esque Times Square and the gentrified, trendy Lower East Side, New York City had earned the reputation of edginess; a place where free-spirited young artists went to live, work, and create.

To watch Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat is to be dropped into this late 70’s/early 80’s New York City arts scene in all its beauty, chaos, and creativity.  This seems completely appropriate as an adage to Basquiat’s life – a life filled with potential and creative expression until his untimely death by heroin overdose in 1988 at 28 years of age.

Boom for Real chronicles Basquiat’s late teenage years – couch surfing graffiti artist and poet SAMO, through to his first sold piece of art, only seven years before he died. And a lifetime before his 2017 record-breaking sale of 1982’s “Untitled,” sold for 110.5 million dollars.

Through interviews with art contemporaries, curators, filmmakers, and even intimate housemates, Boom for Real paints Basquiat as “a time investigator of visual ideas” who understood the nature of a public space and then manipulated that use for a wide audience.

The film is filled with music from the era – punk and rock – music that was played at clubs like Club 57 and Mud Room, which were frequented by Basquiat. The Mud Room is depicted as the place where the “most interesting people of that generation” acted “the coolest that they could.” Bands like the B-52’s and Talking Heads played there, and heroin was the drug du jour.

Throughout the film, interviews with women were more celebratory of Basquiat’s beauty, innovation, and spirit. They all seemed to share in his presence without competition or jealousy. They recognized that he was more of a force and most seemed nostalgic speaking about him. I think the most scathing thing said by the women was that he would obliviously walk in to the apartment blaring music at 3am disrupting their sleep.

The interviews with men spanned a greater set of emotions, depending on their relationship with Basquiat. Most of the male artists seemed to be a little gruff. They tended to be a little more sensitive of a sense of competition, where Basquiat received attention and accolades for being himself or even, alleged by some, for taking credit for or exploiting an idea they may have originally shared. Interviews with curators or filmmakers seem to remember him with more admiration for his ability to live his life through art in various media.

In his short life, Basquiat helped form the band Gray, was a graffiti artist, also a poet working under the name SAMO and began painting in a more pop style that became his trademark.

Boom for Real as a film is a short, 72-minute blip of history through art, music, and pop culture. A Basquiat or early 80’s enthusiast will find it interesting. The rest of the universe will find it indulgent and, if it were on television, would likely change channels.

Bonnie Paul

Copyright ©2018 All rights reserved. Posted: May 18, 2018.

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