2018, Movies

McQueen (2018, Ian Bonhôte, Peter Ettedgui)

This is a pretty conventional chronology + historical footage + talking heads style documentary about someone who may have been, in my ignorant opinion, one of the most interesting fashion designers in history.

I know nothing about fashion, and I really don’t care about it. It was only in adulthood that I discovered that there actually “clothes as art” clothes in the world. So I went into this knowing literally nothing about Lee Alexander McQueen, and associating the last name more with a famous movie star and a great British director than with fashion.

The documentary is pretty conventional stylistically; it is unnecessarily episodic, and it follows a strict chronology of McQueen’s life, with historical footage interspersed with talking heads reminiscing. I.e. it’s utterly conventional. (This is not necessarily a complaint, given that non-chronological biographical documentaries are rather mystifying, given that lives do indeed unfold chronologically.)

But McQueen’s story and outlook are so compelling, and his work so utterly bizarre, that it doesn’t matter that the film is utterly conventional stylistically. Sure, you have an extremely radical fashion designer – basically a borderline performance artist – given an utterly conventional, conservative portrait, but for those of us who do not know anything about this subject, that works as an entry point. I could appreciate his work in context, not necessarily in the context of the fashion world at the time, but the whole world, given I was alive – and not a child – for all of his shows.

Moreover, the one slightly odd choice the filmmakers made – to use skulls with various effects as the chapter interstitials – actually works way better than I would have ever imagined. (These may have been modeled after McQueen’s skull, which would explain why they’re so prominent.)

Though it’s conventional, it’s well told. It made me interested in a subject I was not interested in. And it made me really sympathetic to his own personal struggles, the struggles that affect so many geniuses.

Well worth your time.


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