Julian Schnabel: A Private Portrait

Painter and filmmaker Julian Schnabel is the subject of this insufferable documentary, a work of pure hype that feels like watching an overeager puppy lick the face of its owner. Director Pappi Corsicato loads the film with testimonies from Schnabel’s famous friends (among them Al Pacino, Laurie Anderson, Bono, and Willem Dafoe), who speak in vague, albeit glowing terms about his talent and outsize personality. None of them provide any insight into his oeuvre or its cultural significance, and the interviews with Schnabel don’t reveal much either. The underlying argument is that Schnabel’s ascension in the art world in the late 70s and early 80s owed as much to his genius for self-promotion as it did to his actual paintings, and Corsicato plays into the artist’s self-mythologizing.