Some may reserve their benefit pay for vices such as cigarettes or alcohol, but in his early days the British fashion designer Alexander McQueen spent his dole money on textiles.
His literal rags-to-riches tale is a familiar one; a tortured artist driven by his passion to the point of self-destruction. Yep, seen it before. But here, documentary-makers Ian Bonhote and Peter Ettedgui tell McQueen's tale with the kind of technical virtuosity that is utterly compelling.
Right from the opening credits this film drips and oozes with rich imagery as McQueen's life on the catwalk unfolds like a delicious sensory feast. Bonhote and Ettedgui structure the film around a handful of foundational runway shows, including the infamous "Highland Rape" collection.
McQueen was a reluctant provocateur, but unapologetic for exhibiting his own personal truth. His tenacity and authenticity brought about some of the most vivid fashion shows to date and bore out cathartic events, often expressing a darkly violent and ironic inner beauty.
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Ultimately, his vivid imagination did not go unnoticed, landing him within the hallowed walls of Givenchy and Gucci. But with a rack of skeletons in the closet and numerous demons to wrestle, his was a fairytale that was never going to end well.
Rather than relying solely on archival footage, this well-sourced documentary is laced with anecdotal stories from friends and family who give an emotional account of the troubled artist.
The breadth of candid interviews is worth noting. From larger-than-life personalities such as Isabella Blow, who took McQueen under her wing, to his mum, schoolmates, models, industry confidants, friends and family. Add to that deft editing and Michael Nyman's heady score and you have a glorious symphony for the senses that runs the gamut of emotions; occasionally amusing, often macabre … but always fascinating.
This is bravura film-making of the highest order and begs to be seen on the big screen.
Director: Ian Bonhote and Peter Ettedgui
Cast: Alexander McQueen, Bernard Arnault, Isabella Blow
Running time: 110 mins
Rating: M (Offensive language, nudity, rape references & suicide references)
Verdict: A sumptuous portrait of a savage talent.