‘Hockney’ Is Something Rare — a Cheery Doc About an Artist


After he saw a Clairol commercial that declared, “Blondes have more fun,” David Hockney immediately went out to bleach his hair and has been blond ever since, for decades.

Another time, he decided to rent out a billboard across the street from one displaying an anti-smoking ad, just to spread this message: You will die even if you do quit smoking.

Throughout this feature documentary, you get the sense that director Randall Wright is dealing with a man whose entire life has already been documented but has just been waiting for someone to assemble the trove of archived material into a chronological timeline. It’s to his credit that Wright does do that while managing to sometimes mimic the visual style Hockney pioneered: vibrant colors depicting his serene scenes and swimming pools. The fascinating sound design borrows soundbites from archived material, like commercials and cowboy westerns, that corresponded with the eras of the life of this artist, who has consistently kept up with new technology — from Xerox and fax machines to iPhones and iPads — to make his work.

The result is fantastic cultural context we rarely get in documentaries about artists, grounding us in each period and its significance. Occasionally, Hockney’s happiness can get overwhelming, but we’re assured he does have down times. Hockney is a little work of art of its own, even if it’s so very nice and happy about everything.

Directed by Randall Wright
Film Movement
Opens April 22, Metrograph and Film Society of Lincoln Center