McQueen DVD review: a sensitive and stunning look at the man behind the brand
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From directors Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui comes McQueen, the most thorough to date look at the life and work of Alexander McQueen, the East End designer who brought fashion’s attention back to London.
The documentary sets out to showcase a tremendous artistic talent with an unorthodox outlet (tailoring and design) and his journey from Stratford to the highest vestiges of the haute couture world.
Not only does it succeed in that, but also it showcases the grim reality and intense pressure under which his creative genius was required to work under: later interviews show him torn between keeping his artistic freedom and protecting his company’s employees, all of whom rely on him.
The biopic spans an hour and a half and follows his most famous exhibitions - from early collections inspired by the Isle of Skye, his family’s ancient homeland, to Pluto’s Atlantis, his otherworldly final collection, where snakeskin, conflicting patterns and impossible armadillo shoes told the story of humanity returning to the sea after having depleted all land resources.
The aim is to discover and retell as many of his motivations and inspirations as possible that led him to create such timeless pieces, but also to so many destructive choices culminating with him taking his life.
Early collections like “Highland Rape” earned him titles such as ‘l’enfant terrible’ and the ‘hooligan of English fashion’, which McQueen reveals are not something he identified with. As the story of his life unfolds, we see how fame affects him adversely and the bright-eyed young creative takes a step back to a darker, more anxiety-ridden man. Collections like VOSS and Pluto’s Atlantis reflect that.
In fact, listening to the determination with which he states that his brand is inseparable from his work in interviews, it seems strange that the brand McQueen is still around and faring well.
Though it charts McQueen’s creative life with the well-known tragic ending always hanging above the archival footage and interviews, the documentary manages to create a sense of timelessness around his works and their profound effect on the world of high fashion.
Despite the multiple sources (many modern interviews with Lee’s friends and family, but also archival interviews and footage of his shows), the documentary manages to follow a relatively steady narrative stream, using the different fashion shows to frame everything else.
The choice to neatly divide it in six chapters, which look at different parts of his life, also helps in following Lee’s journey. It’s clear that a lot of work and care has gone in the curating of this documentaty accurately and sensitively.
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