Amy ‘piercingly sad’

Towards the end of her short life, Amy Winehouse’s last single, Love is a Losing Game, sounded like a private lament – as if you were spying on her raking the embers of a lost relationship. But in Amy, Asif Kapadia’s documentary about the singer’s life and death, the song seems to bounce back on its singer, turning the lament into an obituary. “Played out by the band / Love is a losing hand.” “Though I battle blind / Love is a fate resigned.” Though she recorded these couplets in early 2006, at least a year before becoming a global star, there’s an astonishing far-sightedness locked away in them which emerges over the course of this piercingly sad and honourable film. Even more than her sky-scraping talent, love was Amy Winehouse’s tragic flaw – love for music, her audience, her father, her husband, and the ritual of performance itself. And in Amy, you often see how that love was variously repaid with exploitation and betrayal. It’s a film that makes you newly angry and sad about losing Winehouse so early – before albums three, four, five and more, before the lifetime achievement awards and glittering retrospectives, the scandalously young boyfriends and croaking Vegas residencies. But in doing so, it forces you to recognise the sheer selfishness of that anger and sadness. As becomes shatteringly clear, the last thing we should have asked of Winehouse was more. Kapadia makes you feel that pressure bearing down on her from the start: first lightly, as she sings in dark bars and jazz dens, spewing her soul into the audience’s laps, and then later, when she becomes caught in the machinery of fame, as unbearably as a thumbscrew. Now in selected cinemas.

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