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HELMUT NEWTON: THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL

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WRITTEN, DIRECTED & PRODUCED BY GERO VON BOEHM

As one of the 20th century’s masters of photography, Helmut Newton made a name for himself exploring and elevating the female form through his striking, often nude images. Newton imbued fashion imagery with narrative depth and gave context to his subjects by creating stylized, dreamlike scenes that were disturbing, ambiguous, and bold. Critics questioned whether the women in his photos were treated as powerful icons or as submissive erotic objects - or as both. HELMUT NEW TON: THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL is an eye-popping romp through five decades filled with treasure troves of rare home videos, behind-the-scenes archival footage, and countless, strikingly beautiful photographs that track his beginnings in Berlin to eventual cult status. 

Helmut Newton, who would have been 100 this year, tragically died in a car crash in 2006 in LA. The film includes candid interviews with many of his subjects: Grace Jones, Charlotte Rampling, Isabella Rossellini, Marianne Faithfull and Hanna Schygulla; fashion icons Anna Wintour, Claudia Schiffer, Nadja Auermann; as well as his wife and creative partner June Newton (known as Alice Springs from her photography). Susan Sontag, in a pointed exchange with Newtown, broadcast on French television, raises the question of the photographer’s alleged misogyny.

“If a photographer says he is not a voyeur, he is an idiot.”
– Helmut Newton

“Men are just accessories, like hats and gloves.”
– Helmut Newton

Presented with support from the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation Fund.

Presented with support from Film Forum’s Documentary Fund.
Leadership gifts received from: Hugo Barreca, Leon and Michaela Constantiner, Ostrovsky Family Fund.

GERMANY    2020    89 MINS.    IN ENGLISH, GERMAN & FRENCH WITH ENGLISH SUBTITLES    KINO LORBER

Reviews

“When you look at the photographs of Helmut Newton, with their spectacularly cold and severe Amazon-women-on-the-moon erotic shock value... you tend to picture him as a figure every bit as kinky and forbidding. (An) engaging and surprisingly playful documentary about the man who was arguably the most transgressive photographer to emerge from the 1960s and ‘70s. He made his models into dominatrix vamp goddesses, diamond-hard and demonic in their icy surreal glamour. Grace Jones tells a story about how Newton posed her, naked, holding a knife... like a still from a movie that sets the imagination on fire.”
– Owen Gleiberman, Variety

“Any artist who visibly raises the hackles of Susan Sontag deserves a closer look... Newton (is) a photographer of uncommon wit and unabashed eroticism... An avowed lover of breasts, legs and attitude, he could turn stiletto heels and skintight skirts into weapons of empowerment... (Newton) is a charmingly naughty boy whose genius is best approached... with eyes wide open.”
– Jeannette Catsoulis, The New York Times

“Refreshingly nuanced. Fascinating. Both delights in its hero’s troublemaking side and urges viewers to look beyond his pictures’ surface sexual politics. Isabella Rossellini presents one of the film’s most nuanced takes on the photographer. Never intending to rationalize away the seedier aspects of Newton’s work, the film hopes instead to make us recognize the humor and inventiveness lurking there as well.”
– John DeFore, The Hollywood Reporter

“Perverse, erotic, debasing, and powerful... A vivid dive into the career of the 20th century’s most iconoclastic fashion photographer. The drama and expressionism of the Weimar era marked the best work of Newton’s career, often black-and-white, over-the-top, hilarious, and unsettling images... stark shots that blended pain and humor. Unexpectedly moving and a nostalgic time capsule of an art-world rebel.”
– Ryan Lattanzio, IndieWire

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