McQueen review — Testament to fashion genius

Directed by Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui | 111 min

A portrait of British fashion designer, Lee Alexander McQueen, the film is wall-to-wall talking heads and stock footage of fashion shows going back to the early 1990s, with connective tissue of glitzy, horn-adorned skull imagery and a Michael Nyman orchestral score.

The testimonials of his former colleagues and friends to McQueen’s brilliance contrast with a young man riding a wave of anti-style and garish, art-school attitude, which the couture faithful sucked up like heroin, buying into his inspiration, even when he served up $12 of plastic wrap with a zipper down the back as a dress and a show of rejects from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats with a burning car on the catwalk.

But you’ve got to admire the conviction, the fake-it-til-you-make-it balls it took to carve out a niche in a world where the odds of such a thing are astronomical.  There’s no doubt he had a vision, and credit to him for pulling off the con. “I worked the East End yob,” he admits in the 1990s video footage. By the time he pulled off his Highland Rape collection and appalled the tastemakers, he was pissing off all the right people. Next came Paris and a gig with Givenchy and everyone suddenly took him seriously; the anti-fashion man became the tastemaker, putting on performance art with robots and soaking up the standing ovations.

Naturally, the attention brought money, which brought drugs, which brought insecurity. Insecurity was probably there to start with, but was hidden by the ambition until the success wasn’t enough to make him happy. But the work got richer and more creative, more sci-fi and post-apocalyptic. The creativity in his later shows is remarkable.

The tale of the tortured creative is painfully familiar, but it’s laid out in a considered and sensitive way. For fashionistas, this is essential stuff.

About the author

flawintheiris

Carsten Knox is a massive, cheese-eating nerd. In the day he works as a journalist in Halifax, Nova Scotia. At night he stares out at the rain-slick streets, watches movies, and writes about what he's seeing.

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