A satisfyingly detailed portrait of a major figure in the field of fashion.



Given the number of documentary films about figures from the world of fashion, it seemed likely that this portrait of the late Alexander McQueen would emerge as just one more addition to an overflowing genre. But that's not how it plays out: this film by Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui proves to be a class act - and not only in its use of music by Michael Nyman whose work was much liked by this notable British designer. Indeed, I would go further and suggest that McQueen is to its comparable predecessors what Asif Kapadia's splendid Amy is to rival attempts at portraying the lives of singers on film.


As was the case with Amy Winehouse, there is an enormous amount of existing footage covering the life and career of Lee Alexander McQueen, an East End Londoner whose passion, determination and innate skills would quickly earn him success as a fashion designer despite his lack of formal education. Adding fresh interviews to the earlier material, McQueen is presented in five sections each described as a tape and named by reference to his highly individual shows with their distinctive titles such as The Highland Rape and It's a Jungle Out There.


Family, colleagues and friends contribute so as to provide a rounded portrait that touches on all aspects of this man from his studies at the St Martin's School of Art to the ever-demanding career that would find him simultaneously running his own company in London and taking over at Givenchy in Paris where as an outsider he had to prove his worth - and did so until eventually he elected to move on to Gucci. Always a hard worker, his career had a harmful effect on his private life as a gay man and its pressures also changed his character.


We see much of McQueen himself and can recognise just how engaging and inspiring he was but, while he tried hard to remain true to himself, this film illustrates vividly the price of becoming an international McQueenfigure in a competitive world. If that would seal his fate, the film also recognises the dark side that had always been present and had influenced his work and it traces this back to childhood experiences. The impact of two deaths is clear too, as is another striking fact: most of those who appear here and who were really close to him feel compelled to acknowledge how difficult and unfair he could sometimes be and yet in spite of that continue to love the memory of him. 


At 111 minutes, McQueen risks seeming slightly overlong, but it moves well and is admirably detailed while the big screen is well suited to showing off his individuality as a designer. The film's honesty makes it a fitting portrait of an imperfect but remarkable man and it offers the kind of satisfaction more often provided by reading biographies than by visiting the cinema.




Featuring  Janet McQueen, Gary James McQueen, Mira Chai Hyde, Detmar Blow, Sebastian Pons, Rebecca Barton, Bobby Wilson, Andrew Groves, Ruti Danan, Jodie Kidd, Tom Ford, Magdalena Frackowiak, and archive footage of Lee Alexander McQueen, Joyce McQueen and Isabella Blow.


Dir Ian Bonhôte with Peter Ettedgui, Pro Andee Ryder, Nick Taussig and Paul Van Carter, Screenplay Peter Ettedgui, Ph Will Pugh and Alexander Alexandrov, Ed Cinzia Baldessari, Music Michael Nyman.


Salon Pictures/Misfits Entertainment/The Electric Shadow Company-Lionsgate.
111 mins. UK. 2018. Rel: 8 June 2018. Cert. 15.