Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. United Kingdom, 2018. Misfits Entertainment, Salon Pictures, Commondeer Films, Creativity Capital, Moving Pictures Media, The Electric Shadow Company, Time Based Arts. Screenplay by Peter Ettedgui. Cinematography by Will Pugh. Produced by Ian Bonhôte, Andee Ryder, Nick Taussig, Paul Van Carter. Music by Michael Nyman. Film Editing by Cinzia Baldessari.
From humble tailor to internationally acclaimed visionary, the boy from Lewisham wowed the fashion world with clothing that frequently explored his dark imagination (and sometimes seemed downright dangerous to try on). Directors Ian Bonhote and Peter Ettedgui have assembled a biographical timeline of the late, great Alexander McQueen that is illustrated with his accomplishments, a great place for the uninitiated to start exploring his legacy. Behind the glory of many of his headline-grabbing shows, we learn that McQueen struggled for a great deal of his career, working as head of Givenchy while producing his own line simultaneously (the former provided far more income than the latter), designing around the clock and producing an incredible number of collections while battling his own personal demons. His signature line, and the highly theatrical shows in which they were displayed, explored his fears and anxieties in ways that still fascinate in the footage presented here, but the personal toll of his friendship with Isabella Blow as well as his reliance on his relationship with his mother eventually overcame a man who, at the age of 40, was overtired, disillusioned and weakened by excessive drug use. Bonhote and Ettedgui do a fair job of glorifying the notable aspects of his life, the way McQueen’s shows are edited into the film adds to just how unforgettable they were, amplified by the film’s use of Michael Nyman’s music from The Piano. The hands-off approach on the individual subject, however, makes for a cold and impersonal documentary; perhaps this is done out of respect, and it’s wonderful that the filmmakers don’t pore over the gruesome details of his suicide in an exploitative, tabloid manner, but to get at the nature of work that was such an assault on the senses and was determined to break through boundaries of propriety, it feels like being too respectful isn’t being true to McQueen’s ambition. Considering that his dark side was so integral to his output, the film would have done better to explore it in more detail.