Film

“McQueen” Finds the Humanity Behind the Provocateur

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Directors Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui make a compelling case that fashion design icon Lee Alexander McQueen was more than the enfant terrible persona that the media slapped onto him and that he at first reveled in, then began to despise. (And we can give him this much: He wasn’t a predator.)

Bonhôte and Ettedgui narrativize McQueen’s life via his most important runway shows and five self-recorded videotapes that trace his evolution as egotist and artist and serve as framework through which to understand how fame impacted his mental health and addiction woes. The difference between McQueen and the standard tortured genius documentary lies in the kind of artist McQueen was: Behind the (sometimes incendiary, sometimes infantile) provocations in his designs was a clear humanity, his garments the unfiltered expressions of his emotions and ideas. Bonhôte and Ettedgui’s archival footage observe his process: He could precisely sculpt with shears or tear fabric with frenzied passion, and the results were consistently a doorway to the recesses of his dark heart.

McQueen is on display here not merely as impenetrable legend, but as a laborer. We see his time at Savile Row, his nonverbal collaboration with a French atelier, as well as his sense of scale and inclination toward the cinematic, all augmented by Michael Nyman’s haunting score. But McQueen’s greatest strength is the chance to see his catwalk shows on the big screen. Despite interviews with family and collaborators, the film lets the art — what the Met rightly called “such savage beauty” — speak for itself.

McQueen
Directed by Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui
Bleecker Street
Opens July 20, Angelika Film Center and Landmark at 57 West

 

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