In church I found God. And then Polaroid led me straight to the devil.
The legendary photographer Robert Mapplethorpe’s life is the subject of the upcoming biopic Mapplethorpe, which unveiled its first trailer on Friday. Matt Smith (Dr. Who, Christopher And His Kind and The Crown) plays Mapplethorpe. The film was written and directed by Ondi Timoner, the only two-time recipient of the Sundance Grand Jury Prize for documentaries. Her work is in the permanent collection of New York City’s Museum of Modern Art. Mapplethorpe is her first feature. It chronicles the great photographer’s sexual and artistic awakening in New York City of the 1970s and 1980s, and his deep friendship with rock legend/poet Patti Smith, played by Marianne Rendón. Mapplethorpe’s longtime lover, art curator and collector Sam Wagstaff is portrayed by out actor John Benjamin Hickey.
Smith’s Mapplethorpe says in the trailer’s voiceover:
Photography, it’s about light, it’s about composition, it’s about the personality of the subject. I’m an artist. I would have been a painter but the camera was invented.
The film depicts Mapplethorpe’s story from the moments before he and Patti Smith moved into the famed Chelsea Hotel where begins photographing its inhabitants and his newfound circle of friends including artists and musicians, socialites, film stars, and members of the S&M underground.
Mapplethorpe’s work displayed eroticism in a way that had never been examined or exhibited to the public before. Mapplethorpe was diagnosed with AIDS in 1986, when the illness was still a death sentence. He spent the remainder of his life working, and not only pursuing perfection, but also striving to secure his legacy after his death. In 1988, a few months before Mapplethorpe’s passing, The Whitney Museum of American Art mounted his first major American museum retrospective. His impact lasts into the 21st century.
Mapplethorpe had its premiere at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival in November and it opens nationwide March 1st, 2019.
Until then, there is Mapplethorpe: Look At The Pictures (2016) an unflinching, unprecedented look at Mapplethorpe’s work, from HBO Documentary Films and World of Wonder‘s Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato (Inside Deep Throat; Wishful Drinking and The Eyes Of Tammy Faye), with senior producer, Sara Bernstein and executive producer, Sheila Nevins. It is the first feature-length documentary about the artist since his death, and the most comprehensive look at Mapplethorpe’s work ever. Watch: