Here’s one to break your heart: a gothic, tragic charting of the legendary Alexander McQueen’s sharp ascent to, and then fall from, grace. McQueen is a rare beast among the recent canon of fashion documentaries. Where hagiographies on Carine Roitfeld, Manolo Blanket and Valentino choke under a pall of PR chatter, the talking heads in Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui’s new feature are the designer’s nearest and dearest. Friends and family reflect without censorship on how their lovely Lee made good, showing the pulsing heart beneath his skeletal designs. The film becomes a visceral gut punch as we hear this Greek chorus will their loved one away from the edge.
By giving a voice to those closest to McQueen, the director removes the distance between us and the subject. Painstakingly honest in their accounts, the interviewees’ stories are tinged with a sense of the inevitable fall. Before the gothic style was mired in a deluge of 90s grunge – co-opted by tattoo parlours and bands – the iconic designer distilled it to its purest form. The documentary has thrilling footage of those first, revolutionary shows, which birthed a new generation of runway spectacle, laying the fashionista’s psyche flat on the catwalk like a brain on the operating table. The feature tracks with finesse the fault lines of his destruction through the beautiful horror of these shows.
There’s a poem by Ijeoma Umebinyo called Diaspora Blues, a short three lines: “So, here you are/ Too foreign for home/ Too foreign for here/ Never enough for both”. McQueen was neither at home with his family, nor in the gilded walls of Givenchy. The artist made a home in excess: exceeding the demands set upon him by the absurdly fast fashion calendar still oppressing the industry, exceeding CSM’s vision of what grads could accomplish, exceeding the limits of his own hedonism. McQueen tracks what happens when these boundaries are pushed, and it is a heartbreaking, hilarious, agonising watch.
McQueen is released nationwide on 8th June 2018.
Watch the trailer for McQueen here: