Film Review McQueen

When I first heard of an Alexander McQueen documentary being produced, I was nervous. After all, this is Lee McQueen who in my opinion was one of the top designers of our generation. The Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibition that was in the V&A in 2015 was such a fantastic tribute to the designer and I was concerned that the film would not do justice to his memory. 

The film actually almost never came to be, according to Vogue as when the idea was initially raised the McQueen family said no as it was too soon. But later when Bonhôte (producer and co-director) and Ettedgui (writer and co-director) were given the go-ahead, they proposed their concept to a series of distributors in February 2017, it was financed within three days {source}. People really wanted to know Lee’s story.

The film was more than I could have hoped for. It was rawer than I expected and didn’t gloss over the harder times in his life. It was a proper behind the scenes as much as a film can be (a combination of home videos and archive footage), spanning his life from starting to design to his last show Plato’s Atlantis. And the interviews that were with his close friends and family were very moving, it must have been so difficult for them to film and you can see the emotional toll that it took on many of them. But hearing them talk really helped the viewer get a greater insight into Lee’s genius.

“I get very nervous when he picks up a pair of scissors,” – Catherine de Londres, head of atelier at Givenchy

The film starts from his roots, where he started and his journey into tailoring with Cornelius O’Callaghan on Saville Row to working with Red or Dead to working under Romeo Gigli. I enjoyed learning more about his special relationship with the infamous Isabella Blow, who helped him in so many ways at the start of his career to reach the heights that he did later on. The film does show his work beautifully and I loved seeing is shows again, the drama and emotion in them are hard not to feel.

What I also found so surprising was the small budget used in some of his most iconic pieces! It really goes to show that with passion and an eye for design, a stunning piece can be made from anything – even plastic wrapping!

If you leave without emotion then I’m not doing my job properly …“I want you to feel repulsed or exhilarated.” – Alexander McQueen.

It was difficult to watch how the pressure and the publicity did appear to change Lee and his shows getting darker reflected this. He was doing 10-14 shows a year, so much for one person. It was quite upsetting to see it and how his mind moved to that darker space – to Voss. To me, it seemed the change started from Givenchy, but without designing for them, one does need to ask would he have reached the audiences that he did?

I thought that the film did, however, tastefully deal with the topic of Lee’s death, though to hear his friends/family talking about it did bring me to tears. A true loss to them but also to the creative art world.

The extraordinary raw story is out now, and I saw it in The Lighthouse Cinema in Dublin, but it is also in Galway in Palas. This is one film that I would not wait until it comes out on DVD or a streaming service, the shows alone are worth seeing on the big screen. And if you are like me, the darkness will help hide the tears when the film ends. A powerful tribute that really drills home the pressure that Lee was under and highlights the magic is his creativeness.


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