Jack Hazan's quasi-documentary A BIGGER SPLASH is an unfocused examination about the creative life of David Hockney and supposedly about the effect of his past relationship with his pupil Peter Schlesinger (an artist, sculptor, and photographer who Hockney not only enjoyed as a lover but as a disciple). The précis appears to be that Hockney, in the throes of disappointment about the dissolution of his affair with Peter, decides to move to California where he has already been established as a painter of California people and places.
In London we meet his friends - Celia Birtwell, the elegantly stylishly beautiful model Hockney used repeatedly, dress designer Ossie Clark, confidant Mo McDermott, and patron Henry Geldzahler - each of whom Hockney painted and drew. We watch as Hockney visits the galleries and admires works of his friends, how he paints in his studio, how he relates to his gallerists (like Paul Kasmin), and how he perceives men and other artists.
Peter Schlesinger figures prominently in the film with many episodes of Peter's swimming in the pools of the people Hockney would eventually immortalize. He is a fine presence and carries his silent role well - almost appearing as a ghost muse that keeps Hockney focused on his now infamous swimming pool paintings.
The magic of this film, for those to whom Hockney is a well known and important painter, is the visual recreation of the paintings that have made him so famous: we are allowed to see Celia and her husband with white cat in context with the canvas, the view of Peter staring into the pool at an under water swimmer, the woman and her animal heads who appears in another of Hockney's famous paintings at poolside, etc. This kind of cinematic background is valuable now and will prove invaluable to the archives of David Hockney. For those people this is a must-see film, despite its meandering technique and choppy editing. For others, it may seem too self-indulgent. Grady Harp, August 06