Film Review – A Bigger Splash (1973)

A Bigger Splash is probably one of David Hockney’s most famous paintings, recently being sold at auction for an incredible £23.1 million ($29.8 million) making it Hockney’s third most valuable painting. A Bigger Splash is also the name of a much loved and ground-breaking documentary about Hockney’s life which is available for home release so fans of Hockney that are curious about what drove the renowned artist to create some of his greatest work can get into his mind. Released in 1973, A Bigger Splash is not only about the things that inspire Hockney’s work, but it’s also a partly scripted documentary detailing his life around the time that the documentary was made.

After splitting up with Peter Schlesinger, Hockney finds himself at odds with the world and has a creative block as his mind frequently wanders back to Peter. So, for a while A Bigger Splash may feel a little self-indulgent and perhaps only the more ardent fans of Hockney’s work can get past this little moment of introspection and for those fans they are well rewarded. For as soon as Hockney’s inspiration strikes then the film comes to life, showing not only the process that led to Hockney’s finest work, but also serving as a visual representation of what goes on in his mind and what inspired him to paint.

What could be mistaken for a meandering film that perhaps takes pauses a little too long, only shows that it’s testing its audience as it gives them time to settle down into the every day and mundane. However, that’s when A Bigger Splash does indeed throw water in the faces of its audience as it confronts them with imagery that would have been shocking at the time of release, weeding out those fans who may have been uncomfortable with a man who was openly gay at a time where sexuality was still largely seen as heterosexual. Although, for those who felt that they had to hide their sexuality at the time, A Bigger Splash comes as a revelation, not only for the LGBTQ+ community, but for a documentary that so thoroughly and insightfully explores what makes David Hockney tick.

Documentary, Art | USA, 1973 | Amazon Prime | Dir.Jack Hazan | David Hockney, Peter Schlesinger, Celia Birtwell