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Live Fast, Die Young and Leave a Beautiful Documentary

07/07/2015 11:59 BST | Updated 05/07/2016 10:59 BST

To anyone who bought Cheek to Cheek, Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga's 2014 award winning collection of jazz standards, the recent cinematic release of Amy will come as a timely and rather sad reminder of what could have been.

There's no doubt that the multi-million selling artist and North American Meat Institute's poster girl was a substitute. Admittedly a good one - even up there with those substitutions made by Alex Ferguson during the 1999 Champions League Final against Bayern Munich - but a substitute nonetheless for the troubled London born singer who died practically four years ago under tragically inevitable circumstances.

I'm not alone in recalling precisely where I was and what I was doing when those in the public eye pass away. On the day Winehouse joined the so called '27 Club' (a fate nowhere near as bad as joining S Club 7), I was paying for groceries in my local Waitrose.

An assistant, obviously distressed, came up to the young chap who was serving me and told him that the controversial singer had been found dead. What surprised me most and has stuck in my mind ever since wasn't the news (my reaction being nothing more than a resigned 'it was only a matter of time' shrug of the shoulders), it was his response. "Who's she? Never heard of her". Given his age and her media attention, it seemed an odd reaction.

I can't help wondering if he'll go to see this film? He definitely should do. For fans or otherwise of Winehouse's music, it's every bit as good as Asif Kapadia's last documentary about the racing driver, Ayrton Senna.

This time around, the increasingly renowned filmmaker has progressed from speed to alcohol, heroin, crack cocaine and something more addictive than all of them put together: fame.

Using previously unseen footage and unheard interviews with those who knew her best, it's a fascinating insight into a performer who craved the limelight, yet eventually came to regret it. Although this is an oft-told story, in fact as old as the concept of celebrity itself, here it's delivered with a fresh and bold originality.

One of the most genuinely touching and real moments features Winehouse near the end of her life. Seemingly free from drugs, despite being twitchingly anxious, she records Body and Soul for Bennett's Duets II record. He later claimed it was his absolute favourite track. Desperate to impress her idol, she gets increasingly frustrated as take after take she isn't satisfied with her rendition and tells him that she doesn't want to waste his time.

The octogenarian crooner reassures her that she's wonderful. No exaggeration because it won the following year's Grammy for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.

What comes across in this scene is that ultimately she was a jazz chanteuse - a sort of hipper, more urban Diana Krall (God! how she'd turn in her grave at that comment) - happiest when interpreting and putting her own unique vocal stamp on the songs of those she admired most, including Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington.

While Bennett famously left his heart in San Francisco, Winehouse certainly left hers slightly closer to home in the Abbey Road studio where this, her last ever recording took place.

Although widely lauded for her self-penned songs such as Rehab, Back to Black and You Know I'm No Good ( the lyrics intermittently flashing up on screen, giving them an importance which away from the kind light of sentimentality they possibly don't deserve), the singer appeared to feel trapped by them. The infamous concert in Belgrade where in a drunken and bewildered state, she could hardly be bothered to bring herself to sing them again certainly suggested this to be the case.

Perhaps they were too personal, overly self indulgent and better suited to the diary entries and private letters of a temporarily troubled young woman infatuated with unsuitable lovers. More likely though she could see herself 30 years hence continuing to belt them out, a grotesque cabaret caricature of her former self; the signature beehive hairdo greying, no longer piled quite so exaggeratedly high and the Cleopatra make up a little less carefully applied. Who knows what else the future could have had in store. The new judge; the gobby opinionated one on the Voice? Thanks to those around her, don't bet that it wouldn't have happened.

Although Tony Bennett isn't on screen for that long, it's his presence that is constantly felt. You are left with the overriding sense that she longs for him and not Mitch (if there's one person who doesn't come out of this at all well, it's Mitchell Winehouse) to have been her father. Perhaps then she would have truly had someone she respected, loved and looked up to for advice and guidance.

For the average stage school starstruck teenager, Amy should be mandatory viewing. If nothing else, it would serve as a stark reminder of the perils of mass popularity. Like a packet of cigarettes, this movie needs to come with a health warning attached. The message of impending doom would naturally read: 'Be careful what you wish for. You might just get it'. One wonders though if any of the thousands of wannabes out there would take the slightest bit of notice? Seems doubtful. Even knowing how it plays out, they'd probably still willingly give up a lengthy proportion of their earthly lives to have half of what Miss Winehouse had.

Not, of course, that stardom always has to end badly or tragically.

For every Amy, there's a Cheryl (Fernandez-Versini). Someone for whom the murky waters of celebrity and the sharks that swim in them aren't nearly as scary. Yes, their careers go on for longer. They simply never shine quite as brightly.

Therefore, along with others before her, maybe Amy checked out at exactly the right time. With all due respect to the aforementioned Gaga, it's just a pity we never got to hear that collaborative album as it really should have sounded.