A Bigger Splash (1974) | The celebrated David Hockney arthouse biopic dives onto Blu-ray

In Hockney, on BBC2 HD at 9pm today (Saturday 14 March), the renowned and prolific artist David Hockney gives viewers a rare and frank insight into his life. To coincide with the premiere screening of the documentary film, here’s a look back at the 1974 arthouse biopic, A Bigger Splash.

Back in 2012, the BFI released a restored version of Jack Hazan‘s celebrated 1974 docu-drama, A Bigger Splash which celebrated the life, work and vision of David Hockney. Named after the Bradford-born artist’s famous 1967 painting of the same name, this documentary-cum-art school experimental ode is a very personal film, with Hazan (who also lensed the 1980’s documentary Rude Boy with British punk rockers, The Clash – which is also getting a restored Blu-ray/DVD release in April) gaining intimate access to the artist and his entourage, including designers Celia Birtwell and Ossie Clark, at a time when Hockney was at his height.

While the film does ramble on as Hockney muses over his breaking up with his former lover, artist Peter Schlesinger (who is filmed, but never speaks), it excels at recreating some of Hockney’s most famous paintings like Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy – in which Ossie Clark takes his cat to view the work at the Tate Gallery. But my favourite scene is a recreation of the painting below (the name of which escapes me) which comes off like a surreal dreamlike fantasy (and the Blu-ray transfer makes it even more sublime).

But it’s Hockney’s LA paintings that take centre stage with Hazan’s camera lingering over a group of young men with foppish good-looks frolicking poolside. If the sight of naked men doesn’t float your boat, then ‘be prepared’ as the film is quite explicit with its full frontal nudity – even Hockney bares all in one scene. However, if you’re interests do rise above the navel, and you want to revisit an era when the bright young things of the London art scene were just beginning to break out of the closet of conformity, then this is a totally mesmerising nostalgia piece.

Included on the BFI release are two rare films, 1966’s Love’s Presentation (a wonderful account of the etching process – view a clip here) and Portrait of David Hockney (1972).

A Bigger Splash is available in a dual format edition (Blu-ray/DVD) through the BFI (click here to order)


About Peter Fuller

Peter Fuller is an award-winning print, radio and television journalist and producer, with over 30 years experience covering film and television, with a special interest in world cinema and popular culture. He is a leading expert on the life and career of Vincent Price and actively promotes the actor's legacy through publications, websites and special events.

Posted on March 14, 2015, in British Film, Documentary, Must-See and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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