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The HBO documentary Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures screens at the AGO in Toronto from Jan. 18 to 21.

3 out of 4 stars

Title
Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures
Directed by
Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey
Starring
Robert Mapplethorpe, David Croland, Edward Mapplethorpe, Fran Lebowitz
Genre
Documentary
Country
USA/Germany
Language
English
Year
2016

According to the producers of the charismatic HBO documentary Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures, "The only thing more outrageous than Robert Mapplethorpe's photographs was his life." And yet, the doc itself disagrees with that declaration, because the takeaway from the film (which screens at the AGO, Jan. 18 to 21) is there was no separation between art and artist when it came to the penis-obsessed Andy Warhol contemporary. After being shown the gay New Yorker's most infamous self-portrait for the fifth time, one is led to conclude that having a leather whip inserted into his backside was an everyday thing for the S&M enthusiast, who died of AIDS in 1989. What we learn from the enjoyable punditry of siblings, art-world associates and former lovers is that the gorgeous provocateur was consumed with fame, and that everything and everybody was a means to that end. "Whatever it took to become Robert Mapplethorpe was what it was going to take," his brother says. "And it took his life." That seems more sad than outrageous.

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