Antonio Lopez 1970: Sex, Fashion & Disco

 

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A distinctive approach marks this portrait of a man in his prime.

 
Antonio Lopez 1970 Sex, Fashion & Disco

  

James Crump’s biographical documentary is unusual for two reasons. One of them is indicated in the title even though the wording of it is at the same time slightly misleading. In this portrayal of Antonio Lopez, Crump’s film does briefly refer to his background in Puerto Rico and to his father’s dismay on realising that his son was bisexual (the gay side seemingly predominant) and likewise there is mention of the fact that Lopez, born in 1943, would die of Aids in 1987. However, this is a film that evokes principally just one key period in Lopez’s life, that being not just 1970 as that title leads us to expect but the years from 1968 to 1972.

 

During this time Lopez, now well established as a fashion illustrator, was living in New York and Paris. As a student in America he had met Juan Ramos who was his lover for five years or so but remained his friend and artistic partner right up to 1987 (Ramos would also die of Aids but eight years later). This film makes clear the continuing importance of each to the other, not least because Ramos emerges as an intellectual whose sense of discipline played a crucial role in their business success. In contrast Lopez, noted for his charismatic charm and seductively flirtatious personality, was a true artist whose only reliability lay in the wonderful instinct and imagination that always found expression in his art. If the art was secure, the man was not: he had days when he experienced artistic blocks, had no less than four psychiatrists and was driven throughout his life by the fact that he was addicted to sex.

 

Crump’s film captures Lopez not just through old footage and photographs but by having friends, lovers and acquaintances look back on their time with him. The most notable are Jessica Lange, Corey Tippin, Grace Coddington, Jane Forth, Donna Jordan and the late Bill Cunningham. Through these recollections we hear too of such figures as Karl Lagerfeld and Jerry Hall who played an important part in Lopez’s life during these key years. But, if darker elements can be distantly detected, the memories offered up here are very much of people recalling their youthful days in an era before Aids when in gay and artistic circles sexual freedoms were being celebrated on a new scale. One suspects a bias in the way that, supported by Crump, their vivid descriptions suggest a golden age. Indeed, the other novel aspect of this film lies in the way in which it is shot and edited in a manner that actively contributes to this particular vision: it moves fast and without rest, features images in ’Scope which brilliantly bring out the glowing colours present in Lopez’s drawings by contrasting them with surrounding shots in black and white, rejoices on occasion in the use of split screen and has a musical background that draws on the sounds of the period. For those who feel alien to the hedonistic world being thus celebrated, this is a film that works within limitations, but for others Crump’s ability to match the style of his filmmaking to the subject matter is the film’s special achievement.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Featuring  Bill Cunningham, Joan Juliet Buck, Jessica Lange, Pat Cleveland, Grace Coddington, Jane Forth, Donna Jordan, Corey Tippin, Paul Caranicas, Patti D’Arbanville, Michael Chow, Bob Colacello.

 

Dir James Crump, Pro James Crump and Ronnie Sassoon, Screenplay James Crump, Ph Robert O'Haire, Ed Nick Tamburri.

 

Summitridge Pictures-Dogwoof.
95 mins. USA. 2017. Rel: 6 April 2018. Cert. 15.