Friday, July 24, 2020

Helmut Newton: The Bad and the Beautiful

Although the provocative photographer passed away more than a decade ago, Helmut Newton: The Bad and the Beautiful showcases the work Helmut Newton left behind as it views his life and career through the lens of models, editors, publishers, and family who knew him best. The documentary by Gero von Boehm may not offer many surprises, but it does celebrate the decades of work from Newton and make good use of interview footage of the man prior to his death in 2004.

Without making any attempt to offer a linear structure, Helmut Newton: The Bad and the Beautiful examines the roots of Newton who came of age in Germany during the rise of Nazism and the early influences in his life as a student for Yva and, in stark contrast, the work of Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl whose strong blond female subjects would become a staple of Newton's portfolio. The film also addresses the charges of misogyny against Newton painting him as a naughty boy who loved and respected women while still wishing to push boundaries as a provocateur.

The amount of Newtwon's work on display, along with enjoyable behind-the-scenes video and stories of some of his more memorable photographs (the chickens!), make the documentary an easy recommendation. It also touches on the partnership Helmut had with his wife June who worked as her husband's art-director while also becoming a respected photographer in her own right. In archival footage and interviews, Helmut Newton's playfulness and humor are on full display. Charlotte Rampling, Isabella Rossellini, Catherine Deneuve, Grace Jones, and others all speak lovingly of the man who so marvelously captured them on film while Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour speaks in detail both about her friendship with Newton and how a "Helmut Newton photograph" stands apart, even decades later.

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