The Scene : Amy

 

Everyone thinks they know the Amy Winehouse story - of the tattooed singer with the beehive, whose life spiralled out of control and who refused to go into rehab. But more than just a great talent wasted by fame and drugs, Amy Winehouse is a woman whose biggest tragic flaw is her unconditional love. 

It was her love for music, for the adoration of her audience and fans, for the male figures in her life (especially her ex-husband, which inspired most of her music) and the love of being on stage and performing. In Amy, this immense love that Winehouse only wanted to share is seen reciprocated, as London's The Telegraph wrote, with betrayals, heartbreaks and exploitations. From a fan's viewpoint, watching the documentary brings out newfound frustrations and sadness at having lost such an incredible voice and talent so soon. 

I remember first listening to Amy Winehouse's album, Back to Black, and was immediately captivated by her voice. I was not a big fan then, but I did enjoy the music. To me, her voice was raw, soulful and had so much depth. And while Rehab (Winehouse's first hit single) was a fun song to listen and sing-a-long to in the car, it was not enough to grab my attention. It was only when her slow-tempo songs, such as the incredibly poignant Love is a Losing Game, came to play on the radio that I became a fan.

 
 

And watching Asif Kapadia's documentary about the short and volatile life of Amy Winehouse made me appreciate the talent that she was.

Amy opens with home-video footage from 1998, in which 14-year-old Winehouse impersonates Marilyn Monroe while singing 'Happy Birthday' to her close friend. In the flashback footage, which makes up most of the documentary, showed a side of the singer that we never knew. She was optimistic, fun-loving and with a cheeky smile that lit up the room. A far cry from the Amy Winehouse that world knows about today. The opening sequence made her ultimate end, embroiled in drugs, booze and bulimia, that much more heart-breaking. 

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From the very beginning, we are introduced to her spine-tingling voice and, as the documentary proceeds, we are brought on a journey, watching Winehouse pour her heart and soul into writing songs and making music that would later garner the support and adoration of the world. What sets this documentary apart from the many others that preceded it is the way Kapadia presented the Amy Winehouse story.

Missing from it is this need to have a moral standpoint (as with many documentaries of tragic stars) and there lack of editorialising her life story. In its place, is never-before-seen footages from Winehouse past as well as stirring interviews with those dear and near to her. Rolling Stones wrote: "Kapadia shows us the transformation of this mischief-loving Jewish girl from North London into a peerless interpreter of jazz and soul, ready to take her place with such greats as Ella Fitzgerald, Thelonious Monk and Tony Bennett".



There were moments in the film where I found myself looking away. The montages of paparazzi swarming over her distressed state of being, for instance, was painful to watch. It's a sobering reminder of how her life was wilting away in the public eye. The songs, used intelligently in the film, are key to making this a successful poignant film. As the songs play on certain flashback videos, the lyrics appear on the screen, as if handwritten by Winehouse herself. This served as reminder that her songs are autobiographical. Indeed, Winehouse poured her everything into her music