Amy Blu-ray Review
In 2011, Amy Winehouse died at the age of 27 from alcohol poisoning. In her short professional career, she won six Grammys (five of which were earned in the same night, a then-record), played duets with Tony Bennett and staked her place in modern jazz. In her short life off stage, she battled drug addiction, bulimia and depression. Of course, there is much more to the beginning and end of the story.
AMY doesn’t open with a funeral or Winehouse giving an acceptance speech, but rather at a friend’s house singing “Happy Birthday.” Many remember Winehouse as that bottle-dependent, beehive-sporting diva. But with that introduction, director Asif Kapadia immediately presents a soul who was born to being a singer, even if she died as something else.
AMY uses a wealth of archival footage to put Winehouse in the light she never really offered herself to be in. The audience gets her insights while observing her on poorly lit stages, in the car on the way to a promotional stop, in pool halls, during interviews and more. We also see the addiction in place, as Winehouse plays with her nose while singing and fiddles with drugs backstage. There are also numerous stories of her being as drawn to the bottle as she was the microphone. This is what made her tabloid and talk show fodder. It is easy to make fun of the weak, and one-dimensional comedians and message board imbeciles had a blast. (Winehouse’s biggest hit, “Rehab,” didn’t exactly make it any more difficult for the punchlines.) But to decide to understand them isn’t something many, especially the aforementioned jokesters, would take time for.
What Kapadia does is just that. As visually observant as AMY is, it also wants to listen and acknowledge. One of the more commendable things that Kapadia does is reinforce (or perhaps, to some, introduce) what a stellar songwriter she was, and her sultry voice is constantly accompanied by onscreen lyrics, offering an evaluation of another aspect that made Winehouse such a talent. Of course, the details of Winehouse’s addictions and faults are accounted for (we see images that show just how ravaged she was, without the disgusting accompaniment of tabloid fonts), but that’s not entirely what made Winehouse who she was, just as it’s not what makes AMY what it is. Kapadia’s work is an intimate one, perhaps too much so for some viewers. But that is what makes it stand out as one of the finest music documentaries in years. It offers the sort of portrait that only access to this material could.
AMY works on a number of levels: a celebration of Winehouse’s life, a eulogy for her death and a document of what one can accomplish in their life while they’re creeping towards death. Even those that did not champion her voice and shrugged off her death with, “It’s about time” or “And?” will recognize that a groundbreaker was lost nearly a half-decade ago.
Video: 1.85:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. Considering the documentary consists of various film stocks and sources, it’s not surprising that the overall video is lacking in depth, particularly in the oldest footage. The most recent footage, however, shows up nicely.
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Subtitles in Spanish. The audio has some of the issues as the video, but the musical performances are generally terrific.
Audio commentary with director Asif Kapadia, editor Chris King and producer James Gay-Rees: The trio offers an insightful commentary that delves into the content of the footage used and how it was arranged for the movie.
Interviews with Yasiin Bey, Mark Ronson, Salaam Remi, and Jools Holland (53:52): This collection offers a wealth of material not featured in the final cut.
Unseen Performances of Rehab (4:50), Love Is a Losing Game (3:50) and You Know I’m No Good (5:45).
The Making of AMY (1:55) is a brief piece that contains clips of the movie.
Deleted Scenes (33:25): There are 17 here, which can be viewed separately or as a whole. They are: “Sweet & Sour – Amy & Juliette Ashby,” “Recording with Massive Attack 2001,” “Salaam Remi – Miami 2002,” “Commissioner Gordon – New Jersey 2003,” “Floating Head 2003,” “North Sea Jazz Festival 2004,” “Brits 2004,” “Milan tour 2004,” “North America July 2004,” “Don’t Smoke My Weed 2005,” “Mark Ronson – recording Back to Black 2006,” “Mark Ronson – recording Rehab 2006,” “Amy at Koko – Camden 2006,” “Mark Ronson and the Dap Kings – Recording Valerie 2006,” “Joe’s Pub NYC 2007,” “Amy – National Security Risk 2008” and “Reg Traviss 2011.”