A documentary: McQueen
I'm a big fan of Project Runway
, and the designers and judges often reference Alexander McQueen in terms of the construction or concept of a garment. While I love watching people make clothing, I'm not all that on top of contemporary (or even historical) fashion design. I thought that this film would be a good way to gain some understanding of a designer who is frequently referenced.
This was a pretty good documentary, using interviews with friends and family mixed with archive footage of McQueen (home movies and TV interviews) to explore McQueen's life and process.
Even if you're not that in to fashion, McQueen makes for a very compelling subject. When talking about him, people will often say "He was like a director" or "He was like a sculptor". McQueen's design is not just seen in his clothing--it's seen in how he chooses to present his work. McQueen's show Voss, for example, takes place inside a glass cube modeled like a sanitarium, complete with bandaged models twitching and stumbling their way through the space. In the finale, a central cube opens to reveal a plus-sized woman covered in moths. [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nK_KA9U9rqo
The film does take on the question of McQueen being misogynistic (his premiere show features women dressed and styled as if they have just been raped, complete with dresses ripped strategically to expose breasts and models who stumble down the runway in distress, and is titled "Highland Rape"), but I was only partially convinced by the explanations that the show is inspired by his having witnessed domestic abuse committed by his brother-in-law. The "Highland Rape" show seems mostly to be intended as provocation. Later shows seem to approach the female body with more respect and nuance, and McQueen's inner demons seem to be more genuinely showing themselves in the art. It is clear that the many women who worked with him (both as fellow designers or as models) felt a lot of affection and respect for him. He pushes the models to be strange, animalistic, alien--he uses them as actresses rather than clothes hangers. As one woman says in the film, "His clothes made me feel like I could be feminine, but at the same time, don't f*ck with me."
This documentary reminded me a lot of Amy
, the documentary about Amy Winehouse. You have this incredibly gifted person, plagued by demons and too powerful to be helped. My heart really broke for Jane, McQueen's sister (the one who was abused by her husband), who lost both her mother and her brother in the space of two weeks. The more McQueen gets close to success and power, the more isolated he becomes. The film lightly touches on abuse (implied to be sexual, but never clearly explained) that McQueen experienced as a child, but it's never entirely clear if McQueen is suffering from trauma, depression, or some combination of the two.
It can sound pretentious to say "It's not just fashion, it's art", but that's how McQueen's work feels, especially watching the actual presentations of the fashion shows. During Voss, models pull their dresses apart. There is of course a commercial element to it, but it feels like the primary goal of his work is personal artistic expression.
I'd recommend this one, especially if you don't think of yourself as being into fashion.