No photographer of the twentieth century was as renowned for his ability to capture such great beauty – and court such great controversy – as Robert Mapplethorpe. Though he died nearly thirty years ago, Mapplethorpe’s name remains synonymous today with boundary-pushing and bold artistic contrasts, owing to both his gorgeous black-and-white prints of voluptuous flowers and his stunning, provocative nude studies of the BDSM subculture.
The first-ever biopic of the artist, Mapplethorpe stars a revelatory Matt Smith (“Doctor Who,” “The Crown,” Christopher and His Kind) in the title role. The award-winning British actor portrays Mapplethorpe from his early days in New York City, chronicling his relationships with musician Patti Smith (Marianne Rendón) and curator Sam Wagstaff (John Benjamin Hickey), to his death in 1989 from HIV/AIDS at age 42.
Mapplethorpe marks the narrative feature directorial debut of Ondi Timoner in partnership with sibling producers Eliza and Nate Dushku. Timoner is the only two-time winner of the Sundance Grand Jury Prize for her documentaries Dig! (2004) and We Live in Public (2009), while Eliza Dushku is a veteran actress of film and television, who finds herself on the other side of the camera.
Shot on 16mm and Super 8mm film stock, the movie provides a rich, textured view of the New York art world in its heyday. And through Smith’s image-altering performance, offers a vivid, challenging portrait of a true cultural icon.