Directed by: Ian Bohôte
Co-Directed & Written by: Peter Ettedgui
Produced by: Nick Taussig, Andee Ryder & Paul Van Carter
Composer: Michael Nyman
Alexander McQueen became a fashion icon for his confronting sabotage of tradition, his ability to measure and cut a suit from his calculated eye and his haute couture fashion shows exhibiting the visions from his tortured soul.
Bruised, battered and embraced by the industry, McQueen rose from humble beginnings growing up as a lad in London’s East End to become head designer for Givenchy which led to backing from Dior – his label, McQueen rising as much from infamy as from his genius to create.
His shows were made to provoke emotion: revolt, repulsion, revelation. As long as there was a reaction: “I would go to the end of my dark side and pull these horrors out of my soul and put them on the catwalk.” ― Alexander McQueen.
McQueen is a documentary pieced together like tapes from his life. Recordings of old footage taken by friends and McQueen himself to archived interviews of the designer and those closest to him: his mother, his industry supporters such as his mentor and close friend Isabella Blow, to current interviews made for the film from his older sister and nephew and colleagues including stylist Mira Chai Hyde and assistant designer Sebastian Pons.
We’re given a back-stage pass into his life from his beginnings as a youngster obsessed with drawing dresses to his drive to succeed in a world shockingly different to the tubby, shabbily dressed man who used his dole money to buy fabric while going back to his parents for tins of bake beans.
I’m not a fashion obsessive but it was fascinating to see the man work, to gain insight into his process. But more than anything I enjoyed seeing his creations, his fashion shows like theatre, his work like sculpture, his vision unique.
McQueen’s ability to turn garbage bags into dresses by waving his magic hands was absurd and genius.
And he was cheeky: As Detmar, Issie Blow’s husband, remembers McQueen telling the models, “You’ve got to put your pubic hair in Anna Wintour’s face.
“It was just very naughty behaviour.”
McQueen rose to fame because he didn’t care what people thought. He rose because he took risks.
As one model says about his finale in his collection of beauty and madness in, “Voss”: ‘Fat birds and moths – isn’t that Fashion’s worst nightmare?!’
Director Ian Bohôte (producer of, 20,000 Days on Earth) gives us a documentary that allows the work of McQueen to speak for itself by focussing on his life through the themes of five major works, displaying his morbid fascination of the dark with titles like, “Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims,” and “Highland Rape.”
We see his anger after his first collection designed for Givenchy, “Search for the Golden Fleece,” to his rebellion in, “Voss”. We see his grief in “Plato’s Atlantis” and we see his final show before his death.
We see the tortured soul of the man as he reveals everything in his work.
As the timeline of his life moves forward, his rise to fame equals his personal downward spiral as friends and family discuss what they could see happening to McQueen.
Yet, his expression continued to amaze – his honesty and grief sometimes ethereal.
The documentary takes you on that journey showing the sensitivity of what made the man.
It’s a sad story that challenges while informing – not a celebration but more a documentation of his life: honest, like the man.
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