It’s 1973 and 37-year-old artist David Hockney is at the height of his fame. Everybody wants his pop art paintings of sundrenched swimming pools—A Bigger Splash, which he painted in California, became the most world-famous of them all. When Hockney’s sitter and lover Peter Schlesinger leaves him, Hockney sinks into a depression. The artist goes to New York and shuts himself away with an unknown woman in a hotel room where his friends can’t find him.
One remarkable aspect of Jack Kazan’s film about this important period in Hockney’s life is that all the people in it—including friends of the artist, a gallery owner, and a museum curator—play themselves, not long after the actual events took place. Even more remarkable is the frank portrayal of the artist’s homosexual entourage and of male nudity and intimacy. This led, despite the initially lukewarm critical reception, to the film becoming a cult classic on the gay scene. The critics revised their assessments once they grasped the revolutionary nature of Kazan’s blending of documented reality and sometimes surreal fiction. Nowadays, the film is considered an undisputed masterpiece.