Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

"McQueen was an artist who designed dresses that became living sculptures" | Photo: Bleecker Street

Alexander McQueen might have had Scottish roots but he came from East London and was called Lee. Everything about him and his rise to the pinnacle of fame was a contradiction in terms. How could this gay lardy scruff, with only one O Level, who spoke not a word of French, become the artistic director of Givenchy, the most prestigious and traditional fashion house in Paris, while at the same time launch his own successful label in London? By the end he was putting on 14 shows a year which, even for a workaholic, is pushing it. He died, aged 40, in tragic circumstances.

"Creative genius" covers everyone from Orson Welles to Banksy to McQueen. When JK Rowling was asked where the idea for Harry Potter came from she told the story of sitting in a train and suddenly there he was, in her mind, half grown, wand in hand. How could Lee, who looked like a Teletubby, dressed by a homeless charity, have the confidence to take himself off to Italy with no qualifications except a brief spell working for a Savile Row tailor and learning how to cut cloth? Where did his imagination come from?

Copy picture

Ian Bonhote and Peter Ettedgui's film does not answer this. Like Rowling on the train, you cannot explain miracles. They use talking heads because it's trad in docs to fill the space between what you don't know and what you see, but it's never overdone, and those they employ for the talky talky bits are emotionally and factually valuable.

He had a life. He had a mother whom he adored. He had a sad eyed sister who speaks quietly with dignity. He had lovers who lurk on the edges. Finally, it's all about style and when you look at his creations and follow the choreography of his shows there is only one conclusion you can reach. McQueen was an artist who designed dresses that became living sculptures. He used fabric, plastic, feathers rather than wood, marble, glass. There seemed no end to his invention and no limit to his ability at finding beauty in dark places.

With fame came drugs, paranoia, despair. He lost weight, became reclusive, let the work devour him. The directors chose snatches from home movies to give an indication of how it was in the early days before McQueen became a brand. Friends remember this unprepossessing funny guy who had the courage to give his talent the freedom to fly.

Why? How?

"Believe in the magic," Harry Potter says.

Reviewed on: 04 Jun 2018
Share this with others on...
McQueen packshot
Fashion designer Alexander McQueen’s rags to riches story.
Amazon link

Director: Ian Bonhôte, Peter Ettedgui

Writer: Peter Ettedgui

Starring: Alexander McQueen

Year: 2018

Runtime: 111 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


Tribeca 2018

Search database: