Opens: May 11
Duration: 94 minutes
Even those not well-acquainted with the art of the late Brett Whiteley are likely to know the legend – that of a comet that burned brightly through the art world, unleashing a self-destructive tailwind that caught up not only himself but his loved ones. This already potent story, both inspiring and sad, was refracted to most ordinary citizens through the distorting lens of the Australian media, where prurience and moralising were free to do their dirty work.
Among the minimum requirements for a documentary on Whiteley is the need to present a vivid and truthful account of the artist’s life bolstered by honest reminiscence and insightful commentary from those close to him, such as his long-time partner Wendy Whiteley and his sister Frannie Hopkirk, as well as the key art world professionals who recognised his talent.
To avoid hagiography, you’d want the film to be honest about his failings as well as his personal strengths and artistic powers, to be upfront about his alcohol and heroin abuse and their effect on himself and those around him – but crucially without falling into the twin perils of either sensationalism or myth-making.