Ed Hardy: Tattoo The World
Clothing isn’t the focus of "Ed Hardy: Tattoo The World," which may come as a surprise to the countless club goers around the world who’ve embraced Hardy’s ubiquitous designs on T-shirts, jackets and trucker caps.
Instead, the feature documentary takes an intimate look at Don Ed Hardy, known as the world’s foremost tattoo artist, whose Japanese and Mexican-inspired body art earned a cult West Coast following years before they were adapted by Christian Audigier and became a staple in the wardrobes of Madonna, Zac Efron and David Beckham, among others.
Those hoping for a "September Issue"-like, splashy industry romp are likely to be disappointed. Award-winning director and producer Emiko Omori is undoubtedly a fan -- her own back, we soon learn, is emblazoned with a massive Hardy design -- and hence, she portrays her subject in a complimentary light as a visionary in his field.
In lieu of drama, we get extensive retellings of Hardy’s adolescence in southern California (where, as family photos attest, the youngster used Maybelline eyeliner and colored pencils to create rudimentary tattoos on his friends) followed by an in-depth look at his earliest tattoo work in San Francisco, Vancouver and San Diego.
"I’m not saying it’s on a level with a profound oil painting, but it’s got characteristics to it that no other medium has," Hardy says of his craft. "...To make it happen as a tattoo on the skin is a whole different thing." In proving the latter point, the camera-lingering body shots of Hardy’s work -- from elaborate floral designs to fully-conceived nautical scenes featuring pin-up style mermaids -- on anonymous models are certainly jaw-dropping.
One of the job’s drawbacks, Hardy notes, is coming to serve as a veritable shrink for some repeat clients ("You know far more about far too many people than you really want to," he quips). Still, as Hardy’s wife Fran notes, that intimacy occasionally has its advantages; in one of the film’s most endearing moments, she recalls how the couple’s own gradual, intellectually driven romance began, not surprisingly, when she sought out a tattoo.
"Ed Hardy: Tattoo The World" won’t win over those who’ve already dismissed Hardy designs as being overly commercial or downright tacky. Though some additional dish would’ve made for a more comprehensive portrait of the artist, those hoping for an enthusiastic love letter to Hardy and his work are likely to be pleased.