We’ve often discussed the line between arthouse and grindhouse. There’s a similar division between glamour and smut. As one of the great masters of photography, Helmut Newton found fame exploring the female form. But were the women in his pieces empowered or exploited? These provocative, sensual and at times subversive images are the real stars of this film, which also features Newton’s home movies and archival footage of the artist in the media.
Grace Jones, his muse Charlotte Rampling, Isabella Rossellini, Anna Wintour, Claudia Schiffer, Marianne Faithfull, Hanna Schygulla, Nadja Auermann, and Newton’s wife June (photographer Alice Springs) all make appearances here, discussing how Newton’s photography impacted their lives and how they saw themselves as attractive beings.
Directed by German filmmaker Gero von Boehm, this documentary is packed with the very images that it discusses. Of course, Grace Jones steals the show. But did you expect any less?
No matter where you stand on the divide between treasure or trash, you’ll find plenty of intriguing material here. Despite his death in 2004, his work has stood the test of time. His work is such a part of our psyche, particularly with Playboy, which published an entire book of his work for the magazine. There is also an incredible shot of Jerry Hall that he shot from Adam, his giant nudes and even the portrait of Thatcher that Vanity Fair assigned to him.
Time referred to Newton as The King of Kink. But was he? Or just someone unafraid to shock, to play with gender roles and a man that encouraged women to own their fantasies — provided he could take the photos of the evidence? Make up your mind for yourself.