Review: Helmut Newton: The Bad and the Beautiful
Curzon Home Cinema & Digital Download: Helmut Newton: The Bad and the Beautiful (2020)
This new documentary examining the work of infamous photographer Helmut Burger is directed by journalist and filmmaker Gero von Boehm, friend of the late provocateur and his wife June. And for that very reason we have a very one-sided view of the man.
This doesn’t really give us an in-depth biography, nor does it truly examine some of his more ‘unsavoury’ work. It’s rather, ‘Helmut-lite’, but is a perfect introduction into the man and his art.
Since the late 1970s a lot of people have decried Newton’s work as fetishist and also misogynistic, of course all art is subjective and in MY opinion, yes it can be fetishist but I have never felt it’s anti-women. The only real criticism of the somewhat fetishist way Newton depicted women in photographs is from an archive clip in which ‘feminist icon’ Susan Sontag tells Newton she dislikes his work. Fair enough, I know an awful lots of ladies under 30 would cringe at his photos of Amazonian blonde goddesses with perfect breasts and pubic hair, but… and it’s a big but, I always saw them as empowered and not submissive. He’s not bad, he’s a bit naughty.
It also includes interviews from Charlotte Rampling, Grace Jones, Claudia Schiffer, Isabella Rossellini, Marianne Faithfull and several other once famous European models who ALL sing his praises, which is a shame really because this has no balance whatsoever. While Vogue’s Anna Wintour says she used his photographs as ‘a stopper’ in her magazines because she knew they’d be powerful enough to stop readers from idly flicking through the pages gawking at jewels and dresses.
I suppose the one thing it DOES show is his loving relationship with his wife June (who called herself Alice Springs), a talented photographer in her own right, so for all his blustering and eyeing up boobs, apparently there was no casting couch and he stayed true to his wife.
So this is a nice documentary with some great example of his work throughout the years – but to pay tribute to him, it should have had some teeth too.
Blue Finch Film Releasing presents Helmut Newton: The Bad and the Beautiful on Curzon Home Cinema and Digital Download 23rd October.
Review by Tina from an online screener kindly supplied by Witchfinder PR.