London bad boy turned fashion designer extraordinaire, Lee Alexander McQueen boldly conquered the world of fashion in his late twenties. His violent, dramatic designs earned him international acclaim and at the mere age of twenty-seven he found himself chief designer at Givenchy, remaining in the position for the following five years. In 2010, McQueen committed suicide following an ongoing drug addiction and a recent family grievance. His approach to fashion and his collections themselves are infamous; his tragic death cementing his legacy within the industry he once dominated. Co-directors Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui take on the ferocious designer and complex individual in McQueen, documenting his dramatic rise to fame and fortune, his career and the personal life that went hand in hand – always present in his work. Using intimate footage from McQueen himself and the friends and family that surrounded him, the film captures an honesty and an intimacy that I’ve not seen since Asif Kapadia’s Amy. McQueen creates a fair and detailed portrait of both the man and the designer, the dark corners of his world and his work drawn out through emotional and frank interviews with those closest to him, those who loved him, those who worked with him and those consumed by him. The documentary highlights his brilliance and his commitment to his craft but is not afraid to also challenge his ego, his flawes and his complex personality. Alexander “Lee” McQueen was full of brilliance but equally filled with burdens and a darkness that the film attempts to explore.
What we first come to understand about McQueen is his remarkable self assurance, from his sexuality (sure of his homosexuality from the age of six) to his own abilities to succeed in the daunting and cut throat industry he adored. The film delicately balances his work and his personal world, demonstrating how integral both were to one another. His personal transformations, both physical and mental are evident as the film progresses and undoubtedly a result of his relentless work ethic and the pressure on him to produce dozens of collections a year. Astoundingly Alexander McQueen remained at the top of his game over many years, always at the forefront of the industry’s trends and vision. The film not only has great access to personal footage but also footage of his shows and collections. To see his high-end couture parading down runways is remarkable and never grows tiresome, even for those with no interest in the often isolating world of fashion. McQueen explores the designer as not just a genius with fabric and a sewing kit but in fact as a master of technology and art and something of an experimental and theatrical showman. Frank and brash tales of his explosive nature are incredibly painful to listen to – particularly when it comes to his breakdowns of friendship and loyal colleagues who simply couldn’t keep up with his persona and his demands. We see the dark side of Lee in his selfishness, his anger and his addictions. Yet, we also get to know him as a son, a brother and a partner. A flawed and feisty man who contributed so much to his art form is given the documentary he deserves, with the directors having carefully crafted a film which captures the heart and soul of the artist and the sorrow and hurt of the man behind the art.
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