4 January 2016

Why Did Amy Winehouse Die?

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“Amy Winehouse died from an overdose? Of course she did. Fuck her, the stupid bitch.” That generally seemed to be the sympathetic response from my parents' generation when news broke of the singers death. Nothing seems to annoy my own Mum more than when a financially successful person succumbs to their own monsters and kicks the bucket. It's as though they see mental illness as being the same as watching Steve Irwin get bitten after sticking his cock into an alligators eye. I agree that if you play with matches then there's a chance that you'll get burned but with addiction, it seems like getting burned is kind of the point. In which case perhaps there's a good possibility that the underlying motive is a little more self-destructive and tragic than simply trying to annoy anonymous members of the public.. and my Mum. I have actually encountered addicts who have entered into a rehab program and can honestly say that it's one of the most profound things that I've ever been involved with. These people are valiantly attempting to find a state of mind and normality that we all take for granted. These are the ones that see choosing life as an improvement to their current situation. There's nothing that will highlight the grim reality of a persons existence than seeing them fight to become part of a world that's undeniably as fucking miserable as this one.

Having previously directed the documentary Senna, Asif Kapadia has now turned his attention to 2011's favourite punchline Amy Winehouse. The film documents her rise to fame, decline into hell, and features some of the angels and demons that attempted to fight for her soul along the way. During its two hour running time, Amy looks at a severely damaged young girl that Frankie Boyle referred to as “a campaign poster for neglected horses” and still wonders why she may have ended up dead. However, despite the post-release controversy, it seems to be fairly un-judgemental when playing the blame game and instead simply lets Winehouse tell her own story. Obviously there are multiple ways that you can have the deceased singer be the lead voice here, such as hiring Psychic Sally Morgan to channel her spirit from the other side. However, it seems that the singer experienced enough people who would lie about their abilities and exploit her for money when she was still alive that this might not have been the best idea. Oh, and before I'm sued, I only know Psychic Sally to be a fraud because I was told when channeling the spirit of the dead psychic Colin Fry.

Instead Kapadia has simply edited a metric fuck-tonne of homemade videos, previously filmed interviews, and live performances into a fairly straightforward narrative. Luckily for this film, it seems that her music was conveniently autobiographical and so the lyrics pop up on the screen to help emphasise her mindset. Not only is this incredibly effective but it also means that we can all have a lovely little sing-along whilst watching her untimely journey to the grave. Kind of like a cross between Mamma Mia and Requiem For A Dream. By having the girl express her own story with her songs, the movie really does feel a bit like a particularly depressing musical. Although I can't deny that I'd have enjoyed that Abba movie a little more had it ended in at least some degree of mass death. Oh, and on top of that there's some newly recorded interviews of those people who were in her life in which they give their account of her and how they definitely, really, couldn't possibly have been at fault. These include her legitimately upset childhood friends, her vampiric waster boyfriend, and her money obsessed definitely-to-blame father.

The great thing about art is that it's completely up for interpretation and so multiple people are more than able to see things in various ways depending on the influence of their own personal baggage. I didn't think that the father came across as the reason that she became the mess that she did, but obviously he did because he's been mouthing off about his depiction since its release. When I was in school, the teacher shouted at one boy to stop talking which resulted in another at the opposite side of the room screaming “I didn't say anything”. He was promptly sent out of the room having been condemned by his own guilty conscience. I won't deny that her Dad does come across as a total fucking idiot that's completely oblivious to the issues his daughter was going through, but that's only because of the footage that I was shown and the universal opinions offered by those in her life. He did tell her not to go to rehab when everybody else said she should. He did send her to do shows that she didn't want to do, instead of giving her time to recover. He did randomly bring a film crew to make a documentary that'd involve her when she'd fled the spotlight in her attempt to get better. He can argue that the film made him look bad, but like an angry religious street preacher, it seems that the real enemy might have been.. you know.. the facts.

Personally, it seems to me that the film suggests the real reason that Winehouse died was because of love. Although, this could be because I'm a miserable fucking prick and enjoy the idea of dragging the insufferable L-word down to my level. By all accounts she hated the idea and pressures involved with being famous, but loved the music that pushed her into that world. She loved her Dad who seemed more obsessed with her career than her health. Although in his defence, that can't have been his intention because as has been proven, it's even harder to go on tour with her now that she's dead. She also loved her equally damaged boyfriend, with the two seemingly enabling each others squalid lifestyle which acted as her shield from the burning flames of fame. And what even is fame? In her case, it was millions of devoted fans who love her and want to get as much out of her as they possibly can. It's just that in order to get that, they were happy to put money into the hands of the people forcing her to tour, the studios demanding a new album, and the paparazzi camped outside her house. Watch the footage of her leaving a club to the snapping of a million cameras hoping to catch her ballsing up and tell me you wouldn't go mad in her situation! If somebody momentarily stands in my way when I'm shopping then I have to fight the urge to jam my finger into the soft part of their fucking skull.

Of course you could then ask why Winehouse was so desperate to love, with some people drawing the conclusion that it was because her Dad left her Mum when she was a child. Maybe this is true, but at the end of the day, that doesn't really make him responsible, does it? Sometimes people leave their partners, and who can blame them - people are generally intolerable. It happens all the time due to the sham that is the concept of marriage. Most of us are from broken homes but we don't then turn into drug addicts and alcoholics a decade and a half later. I'm not saying that her father is innocent in all of this, I just think that she obviously already had her problems. There's a brief snippet in which her Mum recounts the time that she dismissed her daughters admission to being bulimic that suggests a few other people may have failed her too. Like I say though.. it feels like there's an impartiality to the film which simply wants to present things how they were and let us draw our own conclusions. If people keep mentioning her Dad's name in interviews, it would surely be suggesting some sort of bias to not include that in the final film? But only a fucking idiot could possibly conclude that in our complicated miserable world, the sole reason for her death was the management of a fat man whose balls helped to create her.

For me, and based on this film, the biggest factor in her death simply seems to be the amount of pressure that was dumped onto her already fragile mind. When she's not dying in front of everyone, she comes across as a genuinely real and pleasant person. The only thing more emotional than seeing her wheeled out in a body-bag must surely be the footage in which she encounters the singer Tony Bennet. At first she's in awe of him before then being filled with anguish and the humbled opinion that she's not good enough to be in his company. Considering most of us are only used to seeing her pissed as a fart and clearly fucked up, it's a scene that endears you to her through her obvious vulnerability. Kapadia's previous film Senna was praised for being interesting to even those who weren't interested in its subject matter. I can confirm this to be true, having enjoyed it whilst giving literally zero shits about a sport in which people drive around in circles for fucking ages. Without the weapons, F1 racing is like a really really boring episode of Wacky Races. I can't say for certain that this is true of Amy because I actually am a fan of her work, however the film really looks at the nightmare that a human felt subjected to and so only requires a small amount of empathy to be worth your time. But, you know.. fuck the bitch, she was on drugs and so obviously deserved what she got. Thanks for reading, motherfuckers, and see you next time.

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