Mapplethorpe: Look At The Pictures

Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato

Germany 2016, 1h 48min.

These could form the basis of a scandalous story, but Bailey and Barbato’s new documentary about the artist surprises by depicting the exact opposite. The film is an intimate and complex portrayal of Mapplethorpe, not focused on the controversy around him but rather on the authentic person he was.

Robert Mapplethorpe 93.4289 4/18/02 Ellen Labenski
Robert Mapplethorpe
Ellen Labenski

Through interviews – both new and archive – hundreds of photos and low key monochrome reenactments, the film fills in the gaps of what the collective mind recalls about Mapplethorpe, and reveals the story of a boy who became a young man, went to New York and became a landmark photographer.

The film’s narrative is not the usual documentary tale of a famous person’s rise to fame; instead it focuses on Mapplethorpe’s life, relationships and intimate development. As Marcus Leatherdalde, a former lover, says in the film, “the only people wanted in his life were rich people, famous people, and people he could have sex with”. Everyone fell into one of these categories, and every person served a means to an end.

I always was fascinated by the idea of taking sexuality and bringing it to a level where it hasn’t been before.

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