Principal Cast : Alexander McQueen, Tom Ford, Isabella Blow, Kate Moss, Joyce McQueen, John Hitchcock, Koji Tatsumo, Danny Hall, Janet McQueen, John McKitterick, Romeo Gigli, Bobby Hillson, Rebecca Barton, Detmar Blow, Andrew Groves, Mira Chai Hyde.
Synopsis: The life and career of fashion designer Lee Alexander McQueen: from his start as a tailor, to launching and overseeing his eponymous line and his untimely death.
This moody, atmospheric, raucous documentary about the all-too-short life of English-born fashion designer (Lee) Alexander McQueen is a fascinating insight into one of the industry’s bright lights, snuffed out well before we saw the full magnificence of his talent. The film utilises rough early 2000’s handycam footage garnered from various participants – but, interestingly, not the McQueen estate itself – and intermixed with interviews from people who knew the designer, as well as various shows he put on in the European capitals, notably Paris and London. It’s a real fly-on-the-wall movie, handled with due care for both the subject and its circulants, as Lee’s rise from nobody fashion student to prominent – and controversial – collection designer showcased via zoomy-zoom personal videotape and professional interviews.
Folks unfamiliar with Lee McQueen will be surprised to learn that the designer, following a rapid rise within the ranks of the fashion industry, committed suicide in 2010, just prior to the funeral service of his mother and barely three years after the poisoning suicide of his lifelong friend and mentor Isabella Blow; the film doesn’t state this outright, but the various interviews and impressions given by his associates and friends seem to indicate a man with quite a manic depressive personality, somebody who grappled with both fame and his interlalised unworthiness of it, for practially his entire life. It’s a truly tragic story, this one, with McQueen never seeming to be satisfied of happy in his own skin and career, almost as if he was fighting his own soul for validation, and while the point of his demise has robbed us of a unique voice within clothing and couturiers, the fact he has had such a lasting impact even today is testament to the strength of his work.
As far as documentaries go McQueen values intimacy above salaciousness. There’s a sense of love to the work, coming from a place of friendship and love but also one of immense sorrow, but you never feel it to be gratuitous. That it was made with such affection for its subject and without his family’s blessing is remarkable, and even moreso the end result is a film that honours and reveres McQueen in a manner that resonated deeply with me, and I know next to nothing about fashion. Procuring as much footage as they did, filmmaker Ian Bonhôte and his producing partners Andee Ryder, Nick Taussig, and Paul Van Carter have gone to great pains to paint an honest, terribly mournful but fascinating account of one of fashion’s great modern architects, using both the voice of the man himself as well as his friends, business partners and associates. There’s some confronting stuff here both visually and thematically, although McQueen’s strong personality is shirt-thrifted with regards to his self-destructive nature, and a reminder of his remarkable artistry with needle and thread; McQueen is a terrific film that warrants attention if only for its honourific of a flawed, fractured human being who gave us so much of himself before the light went out. Highly recommended.