Director: Asif Kapadia.
The meteoric rise of Winehouse - combined with her stunning vocal talent, working class forthrightness and addictive personality - made her a paparazzi wet dream. But those hounding snappers and the everpresent media gaze meant director Asif Kapadia had an astonishing amount of material to work with in compiling this uncompromising account of the singer's short life.
This cornucopia of photo and video is a boon for the filmmakers, but Kapadia makes sure we're aware of the price that was paid for it. Winehouse, who drank herself to death in 2011 aged 27, was relentlessly pursued by the British press and this plays a huge part in the film's second half. Kapadia isn't making much of a stretch when the doco occasionally points the finger at the fourth estate for contributing to Winehouse's tragic demise.
The "why?" of Winehouse's death is the driving mystery of Amy, and while the ridicule, torment, and in-her-face persistence of the press help explain it somewhat, the film is also good at highlighting other factors. Her own dad Mitch comes off looking like a gold-digging bastard (Mitch Winehouse was none-too-pleased with the final cut), as do ex-husband Blake Fielder-Civil and late-career manager Raye Cosbert. The singer's own behaviour is questionable, but she's painted as a victim of circumstance surrounded by enablers who didn't want to see their cash cow dry up.
Through it all, Kapadia reminds us that Winehouse was yet another incredibly talented yet starry-eyed girl unprepared for the chew-up-and-spit-out mentality of the music industry. Through early home video and phone footage, as well as the recollections of her long-time friends and early manager Nick Shymanksy, we get a picture of a complex woman who was far more than the sum of various later-life problems. These fond remembrances and innocent beginnings only serve to make the inevitable end all the more powerful and gut-wrenching.
As Winehouse herself puts it throughout the doco, all she ever wanted to do was sing, but the media magnifying glass could never leave it at that. When she sings, and her own words come to life on the screen, it's both inspiring and heartbreaking. Seeing her record her vocals for her signature song Back To Black is chilling, and a highlight.
As a documentary, Amy is - sadly - complete. A short life is tragically but beautifully summarised, warts and all, and Kapadia has delivered the quintessential take on who Winehouse was, and why things went the way they did.
I watched Amy at a screening hosted by F Project Cinema in Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia. Here's what's coming up at future FPC screenings at the Mozart Hall (all screenings are at 7.30pm):
Metropolis (featuring a live score by Richard Tankard) - December 13
The Princess Bride - January 10
Waltz With Bashir - January 24