Film review: ‘McQUEEN’ by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

Apart from a general awareness that he was a renowned fashion designer I knew almost nothing about Alexander McQueen prior to the documentary simply entitled McQueen. The film provides fascinating insights into McQueen’s life and career revealing him to be a brilliant but deeply troubled, maverick artist.

Lee Alexander McQueen was a rebellious but artistically-inspired lad who left school with few academic credentials or career direction but had a fascination with designing clothes. Apprenticed to tailors and fashion houses he combined his nascent artistic flair with professionally honed skills to become the most celebrated British fashion designer of the 1990’s. His ascent to the major fashion houses including Givenchy in Paris established him in the pantheon of fashion gods. Thisstatus sat awkwardly, however, with a down-to earth working-class lad and added to anxieties lingering from an abusive childhood. These anxieties manifested in his fashion shows which incorporated themes such as Jack the Ripper, blood and skeletons.

With their bizarre theatrics, models dressed as demons or cat people and extravagant clothes that were never meant to be worn off the runway, there’s something very Zoolander about the whole affair and it’s unlikely those who deride high fashion as ridiculous will be convinced otherwise. Still, the film powerfully conveys McQueen’s remarkable talents and astonishing work ethic. The way in which the film conveys McQueen’s unique personality is testament to directors Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui’s understanding of their subject.

The film, like McQueen’s life, takes a very dark turn as health issues and the death of a trusted friend send him spiralling into depression and while the subsequent events are easily found on the internet they won’t be revealed here.

The film mixes archival footage – often shot on grainy 90’s-era handy cams – with interviews involving family and friends. The 90’s footage will invariably invoke a sense of nostalgia for middle-aged types who recall the excitement swirling around England in the Brit-pop era.

Alexander McQueen operated in a niche environment with which some viewers will have no affinity but those who have never heard of him or even recoil at the concept of experimental fashion will find this an engrossing study of a complicated artist.

Nick’s rating: ***1/2

Genre: Documentary.

Classification: MA 15+.

Director(s): Ian Bonhôte, Peter Ettedgui

Release date: 6th Sept 2018.

Running time: 110 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.


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