Bigger Splash, A: Jack Hazan’s Striking Original Portraiture of Artist David Hockney

Fascinated by the mystery and allure of Hockney’s art, Jack Hazan (the director of Rude Boy) spent three years shooting A Bigger Splash, an improvisatory narrative-nonfiction hybrid. End result is a strikingly original film about a seminal modern artist and his work.

A Bigger Splash dispenses with the norm of talking-heads structure to create an intimate and innovative film about English-born, London-schooled, California-based artist David Hockney and his work.

The docu features Hockney, a wary participant, as well his circle of friends, many subjects of his portraits, including British textile designer Celia Birtwell, fashion designer Ossie Clark, curator Henry Geldzahler, gallerist John Kasmin, and artist Patrick Procktor.

The text also depicts with disarming candor the painful ending of the affair between Hockney and his muse, lover, and model, an American named Peter Schlesinger.

Reportedly, Hockney was at first embarrassed of  the feature, though he would come, in later years, full circle, to embrace the film as an honest and authentic documents.

Hazan’s film calls for a revisiting for a number of reasons. It’s both a time capsule of hedonistic gay life in the 1970s and an honest depiction of gay male romance that dispenses with the then-current narratives of self-hatred and self-pity.

It’s also an invaluable vantage on art history in action: Hockney can be seen putting the finishing touches on “Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures),” which sold for $18,000 back in 1972, but is worth $90.3 million at a Christie’s auction in November, 2018, setting a record for a living artist.

Hazan captures the quiet and private quality of Hockney’s art in a singular feature that serves as a record of artistic creation, which is itself a work of art.