No commercials are shown during “Julian Schnabel: A Private Portrait.” They would only be redundant. Instead this documentary serves as a feature-length advertisement for the artist, and is about as daring as a billboard for skim milk.
Surveying Mr. Schnabel’s life from his boyhood through his success in the art world and as a film director, the movie includes interviews with family members who pile on the adulations from the first minutes to the final scenes. Jeff Koons, Bono, Al Pacino and other celebrities also check in to extol Mr. Schnabel’s brilliance.
All that tell and no show. Interviews with Mr. Schnabel reveal few interesting points, while a grating soundtrack telegraphs how it thinks you should be feeling. Worse still, there’s far too little art. The pieces shown, many of them beguiling, practically beg for their close-ups and for some exploration.
Instead, Pappi Corsicato, the director and a friend of Mr. Schnabel’s, hurries back to the fawn fest; there’s also scant mention of the controversies that have arisen during, and are now inseparable from, Mr. Schnabel’s career. It’s somehow perverse that an artist this prime for discussion is given nothing but monotonous praise, while…