Beautiful Losers (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner06/08/2009

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 91 mins

Enjoyable documentary with a likeable range of subjects and a subtly inspirational message, though it's a shame the film doesn't explore the relationships between the artists and their work a bit more.

What's it all about?
Directed by Aaron Rose, Beautiful Losers is a documentary about the loose art movement that grew out of the skating, graffiti, punk and hip-hop subcultures in New York in the 1990s. Rose himself became a central figure in the group and was responsible for bringing many of them together through his gallery Alleged.

The film intersperses archive footage of the artists and their work with interviews with key members of the group, such as Barry McGee, Shepard Fairey, Ed Templeton and Harmony Korine. It also includes a moving tribute to the life and work of Margaret Kilgallen (who died of cancer in 2001 at age 33) and explores the influence of the movement on pop culture today.

The Good
What's fascinating is that the movement evolved out of a group of creative, like-minded people who were just interested in hanging out with their friends and making things, whether it was putting together zines (homemade magazines), taking photographs, making movies or painting. It's also interesting that everyone appears to be self-taught; there's also a strong comic book influence, although no one talks directly about comics.

The artists involved come across as a genuinely likeable bunch and there is also a certain amount of humour in the film, such as when Harmony Korine mischievously tells some young children that a friend of his was decapitated in their park, only to receive the answer “Cool!” The art itself is also extremely impressive, particularly Kilgallen's work.

The Bad
If there's a problem with the film, it's only that the artists don't actually talk about their own work – indeed, it's ultimately frustrating not to learn a little more about each artist's background and their relationship to their work. Similarly, the latter part of the film touches on some of their mainstream successes (notably Geoff McFetridge's admittedly striking Pepsi campaign) but the film shies away from exploring notions of selling out.

Worth seeing?
Beautiful Losers is an inspirational and occasionally moving documentary that presents an engaging portrait of an artistic community. Worth seeing.

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