McQueen (4 stars)

McQueen

Informative and engrossing documentary about the troubled, prodigiously talented designer

The life of Lee Alexander McQueen is one of the fashion industry's great Cinderella stories. A working class London lad with few formal qualifications, his sheer talent and determination propelled him through the ranks to become chief designer at Givenchy and to partner with Gucci. His rise was meteoric and yet, in many ways, success was a catastrophe that carried a burden of impossible expectations.

Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui's elegant documentary pays fulsome tribute to McQueen's creativity but also paints a vivid picture of the pressures and demons that led him to take his own life in 2010, aged just 40. Grouped around segments devoted to catwalk shows from 'Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims' and 'Highland Rape' onwards, it combines behind-the-scenes footage with audio archive comments from McQueen and fresh interviews with former boyfriends, family members, colleagues and friends.

There is a constant sense of his passion for fashion, his capacity for hard work and determination to push the boundaries with designs that dazzled and provoked. In one interview he explains that his clothes aren't working if they don't produce an emotional reaction, whether that is repulsion or exhilaration.

McQueen also explains that his life is on plain view in designs preoccupied with death, transgression and the macabre. He is very self-aware and often extremely funny; his 2000 collection 'Voss' is described as all about 'fat birds and moths – fashion's worst nightmares'. We learn of the abuse in his childhood, an increasing drug use that started to alter his personality towards the paranoid and aggressive. Then came the unbearable grief over the loss of both close friend Isabella Blow and his beloved mother.

Driven by the delirious energy of an excellent Michael Nyman score, McQueen is informative, engrossing but never maudlin as it considers the many facets of a fascinating and tragic figure.

Selected release from Fri 8 Jun.

McQueen

  • 4 stars
  • 2018
  • UK
  • 1h 51min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Ian Bonhôte, Peter Ettedgui
  • Cast: Alexander McQueen
  • UK release: 8 June 2018

Elegant documentary on the working-class London lad who became chief designer at Givenchy, combining behind-the-scenes footage with archive comments and fresh interviews, looking at the grief caused by the loss of close friend Isabella Blow and his beloved mother. Informative, engrossing but never maudlin.

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