New Amy Winehouse Movie Set to Open in UK

Even before its release director Sam Taylor-Johnson's movie has attracted backlash. BENJAMIN CREMEL / AFP
Even before its release director Sam Taylor-Johnson's movie has attracted backlash. BENJAMIN CREMEL / AFP
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New Amy Winehouse Movie Set to Open in UK

Even before its release director Sam Taylor-Johnson's movie has attracted backlash. BENJAMIN CREMEL / AFP
Even before its release director Sam Taylor-Johnson's movie has attracted backlash. BENJAMIN CREMEL / AFP

A biopic of troubled British singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse tracking her meteoric rise and very public downfall opens in UK cinemas on Friday amid a swirl of controversy.
Even before its release, "Back to Black" has attracted backlash with criticism ranging from the casting to concerns it could exploit Winehouse's story.
"Given the vulture-like efficiency with which her life was picked over, it's near-impossible to think of a sincere reason to make a movie about Winehouse -– at least not one that isn't motivated by greed," wrote music editor Roisin O'Connor in The Independent.
Winehouse, who died from alcohol poisoning aged just 27 in 2011, was a distinctive figure with her beehive hairdo, heavy black eye makeup, multiple tattoos and smoky voice, said AFP.
She shot to international fame with her Grammy Award-winning 2006 album "Back to Black" which included the track "Rehab", charting her battle with addiction.
Director Sam Taylor-Johnson's biopic is the second big-screen telling of Winehouse's story, coming nearly a decade after Asif Kapadia's 2015 documentary "Amy".
That film won an Oscar but was publicly condemned by her family, in particular Winehouse's father who claimed it tried to portray him as "money-grabbing" and "attention-seeking".
Quest for 'truth'
After the film became the second-highest grossing documentary at the British box office, Mitch Winehouse said it dwelled too much on the negative and not enough on his daughter's fun-loving side.
He hinted the family could collaborate with another filmmaker in future to correct the record.
Mitch Winehouse and his former wife Janis attended this week's premiere in London but Taylor-Johnson said the family had not contributed to her film.
"It was important to meet with them out of respect," she told Empire.
"But they didn't have any involvement in terms of... like they couldn't change things. They couldn't dictate how I was to shoot," she said.
The filmmaker, whose 2009 feature "Nowhere Boy" dramatised John Lennon's early years, said she had been after "the truth" of Winehouse's life.
"What I wanted as much as possible was the truth of Amy, and Amy's relationship was that she loved her dad, whether we think he did right or wrong," she said.
Eddie Marsan, who plays Mitch Winehouse, said he tried to avoid a "comfortable narrative" that there was "someone to blame" in some way for Winehouse's death, such as her father or her ex-husband Blake Fielder-Civil.
'Burden of guilt'
To research the role, he said, he approached a friend who worked with both Amy and her father in the music industry who told him Mitch had been a "loving father but he was in an impossible situation".
"He had a daughter who was an addict, she was the most famous woman in the world, she was hounded by the paparazzi, she had unlimited resources and money. Every drug dealer in London wanted to give her drugs," the friend told him.
"Back to Black" also depicts Winehouse's turbulent relationship with Fielder-Civil who has been blamed for introducing her to heroin and who inspired the album.
He said in 2018 he would "always carry a burden of guilt" over his role in her decline.
Marisa Abela who portrays the tragic singer said it would have been a mistake to "judge a character and a character's decisions".
"If other people who watch the film decide she shouldn't have loved a certain person, or shouldn't have trusted someone, that's fine.
"The only villains in our story are addiction and the relentless paparazzi. I'm not telling people how to feel about it," she said.
'Wayward genius'
Reviews have been mixed but some have pointed out that it is still likely to be a box office success due to Winehouse's enduring star power.
Describing a recent crop of music biopics as "far worse" than earlier efforts, Zach Schonfeld noted in the Guardian that "these movies remain profitable".
The Times's Ed Potton said the film felt "a bit lightweight".
He praised Abela's willingness to perform her own vocals but said the result was only as good as "you could reasonably hope".
Peter Hoskin in the Daily Mail said the film failed to capture the "wayward genius of the original artist".
"If they try to make you watch this movie, say: no, no, no," he wrote.
"Much better to put on Back to Black, the album, or the song, and remember what really made Amy a star," he added.



Spanish Fan Shows Off His Taylor Swift 'Sanctuary' Before Madrid Gig

Roberto Santos, 55, a Spanish superfan who is part of a select list of fans who receives exclusive gifts from the pop icon, poses in his "Taylor Swift shrine" in his home in Madrid, Spain, May 21, 2024. REUTERS/Juan Medina
Roberto Santos, 55, a Spanish superfan who is part of a select list of fans who receives exclusive gifts from the pop icon, poses in his "Taylor Swift shrine" in his home in Madrid, Spain, May 21, 2024. REUTERS/Juan Medina
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Spanish Fan Shows Off His Taylor Swift 'Sanctuary' Before Madrid Gig

Roberto Santos, 55, a Spanish superfan who is part of a select list of fans who receives exclusive gifts from the pop icon, poses in his "Taylor Swift shrine" in his home in Madrid, Spain, May 21, 2024. REUTERS/Juan Medina
Roberto Santos, 55, a Spanish superfan who is part of a select list of fans who receives exclusive gifts from the pop icon, poses in his "Taylor Swift shrine" in his home in Madrid, Spain, May 21, 2024. REUTERS/Juan Medina

Roberto Santos, 55, stands out among other "Swifties" for his decades-long devotion to American pop icon Taylor Swift and a plethora of gifts the Spaniard has received from her team in recognition of that - enough to fill up an apartment room he calls a sanctuary.
As Swift, 34, was preparing to play her Eras Tour gigs in Madrid on Wednesday and Thursday, Santos, who runs a dental prosthetics lab in Spain's capital, solemnly displayed the items, including Swift's limited-edition platinum disk award, signed photos, recordings, and sneakers bearing both their names, said Reuters.
"Sometimes I wake up at night, turn on the light and look a little, and say to myself: 'What are you doing?'... I just look, it gives me calm, and I go back to sleep," Santos said in an interview.
"For me she means everything; I've been following her since before 2011... I had the gut feeling that she was going to be big. If I had the same intuition with the lottery, I'd be rich," Santos said.
He said going to see her perform in Dublin in 2018 made him the only person to have traveled twice from Spain for a Swift show. Her management team then added Santos and his wife Inmaculada to an exclusive fan list, and sent them gifts and invitations, including an all-paid trip to Los Angeles last year, Santos said.
"If I was 18 or 20, I imagine I could go a bit crazy... but now everything feels more mature and calm," said Santos, who has Swift-themed tattoos on his arms and ankle.
He has yet to meet her in person. A planned meeting in Oslo was canceled due to the pandemic.
Santos is particularly thankful to Swift and her team for thinking about older fans, and for "the values she has transmitted" through her art.
Swift's record-breaking Eras Tour has boosted local economies. In Madrid, hotel occupancy rates have climbed to 90% on average for the concert dates.