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Home #Hwoodtimes A Modern-day Fairy Tale – McQueen

A Modern-day Fairy Tale – McQueen

Film review by Ethlie Ann Vare

Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 6/15/18 – Even if you don’t know Alexander McQueen from Steve McQueen… or that other Steve McQueen… you will still be captivated by this emotionally wrenching and visually stunning biography of the doomed fashion designer. Think of it as a companion piece to Amy, the 2015 documentary about the late singer Amy Winehouse, but substitute dresses for songs. Because the runway was McQueen’s stage, and his fashion shows were his performances.

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Lee Alexander McQueen was a chubby kid from London’s downmarket East End, a cab driver’s son who left school at 16 to apprentice in a tailor’s shop. Yet this “shabby, unprepossessing boy,” in the words of a mentor, turned out to be a genius with a needle and thread. He talked himself into art school, and used his dole money (unemployment insurance) to buy fabric for his first runway show. At 22, he was the most acclaimed fashion designer in Great Britain. At 40, he was dead by his own hand.

Using news footage, home video and interviews with colleagues, lovers, family and McQueen himself, co-directors Ian Bonhote (American Honey) and Peter Ettedgui (Listen to Me, Marlon) trace the ascent and descent of this comet, and do it with the same elegant beauty McQueen brought to his own work.

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In the 1990’s, McQueen put sex, drugs and rock’n’roll into haute couture.  “Fashion is a big bubble and sometimes I just feel like popping it,” he said. “I want heart attacks [at my shows.] I want ambulances.” In fact, the set did catch fire at one of his collection debuts. He let it burn. The runway shows are the most exciting parts of McQueen, just as the singing was the most exciting part of Amy.  The best part of any artistic genius, after all, is their art. McQueen’s shows, featuring some of the most beautiful women in the world, were dark, disturbing, and highly controversial. “I would pull these horrors out of my soul and put them on the catwalk,” he said. His collections had names like “Jack the Ripper Stalks his Victims” and “Highland Rape.” They were set in padded cells and wind tunnels.

Janet McQueen hits the red carpet at the world premiere screening of McQueen held as part of the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival

McQueen was obsessed with “beauty that disturbs and fascinates,” and the filmmakers do the same with the documentary. Told in increasingly Gothic chapters, framed by elegant skull imagery and set off with a terrific score by Michael Nyman (The Piano, Gattaca), who knew McQueen personally, the documentary is not quite warts-and-all (an HIV diagnosis is barely mentioned, and romantic relationships all but ignored) but it is no hagiography, either. It is an intimate portrait of a complicated and difficult artist that will leave you wishing McQueen was still around to make more clothes.

McQueen (Documentary)

Bleecker Street Productions

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Director: Ian Bonhote

Co-director/Writer: Peter Ettedgui

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Opens July 20, 2018

111 minutes

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Valerie Milano is the well-connected Senior Editor and Entertainment Critic at TheHollywoodTimes.today, a website that aggregates showbiz news curated for, and written by, insiders of the entertainment industry. (@HwoodTimes @TheHollywood.Times) Milano, whose extraordinary talents for networking in the famously tight-clad enclave of Hollywood have placed her at the center of the industry’s top red carpets and events since 1984, heads daily operations of a uniquely accessible, yet carefully targeted publication. For years, Milano sat on the board and tour coordinator of the Television Critics Association’s press tours. She has written for Communications Daily, Discover Hollywood, Hollywood Today, Television International, and Video Age International, and contributed to countless other magazines and digests. Valerie works closely with the Human Rights Campaign as a distinguished Fed Club Council Member. She also works with GLSEN, GLAAD, Outfest, NCLR, LAMBDA Legal, and DAP Health, in addition to donating both time and finances to high-profile nonprofits. She has been a member of the Los Angeles Press Club for a couple of years and looks forward to the possibility of contributing to the future success of its endeavors. Milano’s passion for meeting people extends from Los Feliz to her favorite getaway, Palm Springs. There, she is a member of the Palm Springs Museum of Art and a prominent Old Las Palmas-area patron.