Andy Warhol goofed around with a movie camera, and British photographer/sculptor Steve McQueen won major awards for his IRA prison drama "Hunger," but no contemporary art star has made as strong an impression in the feature-film world as Julian Schnabel.
A potentate of New York's contemporary art scene since the 1970s, he has landed paintings and sculptures in the collections of some of the world's great museums, including the Metropolitan, Modern and Whitney in New York, MOCA in Los Angeles and the Pompidou in Paris. He's also a winner of best director awards at Cannes and the Golden Globes, as well as being an Academy Award nominee. Whether he's painting a 20-foot-tall canvas or daubing a cinema screen with light, Schnabel exudes masterful confidence and control.
Beginning Friday, Walker Art Center will present a retrospective of Schnabel's films, with him discussing his cinema work in a Regis Dialogue on March 19 at 8 p.m.
After the untimely death of his colleague Jean-Michel Basquiat, Schnabel decided that he was the person most qualified to represent his friend's life on film. His 1996 debut feature, the bio-pic "Basquiat" (7:30 p.m. Friday), starring Jeffrey Wright, was an assured, accomplished, visually vibrant art-house hit.
Schnabel moved on to a larger canvas with 2000's "Before Night Falls" (7:30 p.m. March 11), a portrait of dissident Cuban poet/political prisoner Reinaldo Arenas starring Javier Bardem as the writer and Johnny Depp playing dual roles as a sympathetic transvestite and a cruel prison guard.
For his next film, 2007's "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," Schnabel returned to the theme of a creative life cut short. His French-language biopic told the remarkable and touching story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, the Paris editor of Elle magazine who was rendered mute and completely paralyzed by a massive stroke, but nevertheless managed to dictate his autobiography with blinks of his eye. (7:30 p.m. March 12).
The Walker retrospective will include a screening of Schnabel's Lou Reed concert film "Berlin" (showing free at 7:30 p.m. on March 17), and the area premiere of his newest feature, the Mideast political drama "Miral" (7:30 p.m. March 18). Freida Pinto of "Slumdog Millionaire" plays a young Palestinian teacher at a Jerusalem refugee camp who is torn between following the path of her lover, an Intifada resistance fighter, or working for peace.
Colin Covert • 612-673-7186