Warmly affectionate yet curiously hollow, “The Universe of Keith Haring” is a straightforward biodoc about the Gotham-based artist and style-setter. Foregoing any analysis of his work, helmer Christina Clausen instead opts for a blow-by-blow account of Haring’s life, replete with the kinds of numbingly ordinary details Haring’s mentor, Andy Warhol, obsessed over. Fortunately, footage and photos are incorporated without overwhelming the subject, though more on stylistic development and less on paper routes would earn pic higher scores. Doc is best suited for Euro cable and PBS.
Clausen documents Haring’s swift career trajectory, finishing with his untimely death at 31 when he was a brand name popular with curators, collectors and the average Joe on the street. What’s missing is the reason for that popularity, something any New Yorker at the time could have explained by mentioning the optimism of his ubiquitous squiggles. Only Yoko Ono makes an insightful comment on his work, opining that Warhol made art that was meaningless, whereas Haring made art that looked meaningless but wasn’t. Over-reliance on pointless computer editing tricks is tempered by appropriate music and good use of archival Haring footage.