The Gospel According To André

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Reviewed by: Anne-Katrin Titze

André Leon Talley in The Gospel According To Andre
"Flashes a light to illuminate different stages in the life of the man who invented himself with style and grace." | Photo: Magnolia Pictures

"I loved seeing Pat Cleveland in Vogue", André Leon Talley states and tells us that his two patron saints are Lady Ottoline Morrell and Empress Sissi of Austria. Kate Novack's embracing documentary, a highlight of the Tribeca Film Festival, flashes a light to illuminate different stages in the life of the man who invented himself with style and grace.

Co-produced with Andrew Rossi (The First Monday In May, Bronx Gothic) and Josh Braun, The Gospel According To André shows the obstacles that he boldly confronted along the way from his childhood living with his beloved grandmother in the Jim Crow South of Durham, North Carolina to the Paris fashion scene where he became bureau chief for Women's Wear Daily in the Seventies.

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He visits the Condé Nast archives with Tonne Goodman, and is seen in archival footage interviewing Azzedine Alaïa in French. Julia Child inspired him to learn the language, Barbra Streisand to buy second hand clothes, presented here as a lovely montage of capes - from a cartoon king to Dracula, to Lulu, to Tolstoy. He talks about the great importance of his mentor Diana Vreeland, who was the fashion editor of Harper’s Bazaar, the Editor-in-Chief of Vogue and curator at The Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute. "André would become Vreeland" jokes his friend Reed.

Talley, when he attended Brown University on scholarship, made friends with the students at the Rhode Island School of Design where they had dress-up nights that he wrote about. Fran Lebowitz has more than one funny anecdote on when she first met him while he worked as the receptionist for Andy Warhol's Interview magazine.

Anna Wintour, Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs, Norma Kamali, Diane von Furstenberg, Whoopi Goldberg, Sean Combs, Valentino Garavani, will.i.am, and Manolo Blahnik, along with friends and a teacher from his childhood recall the lasting influence he has had on them. "Do you know how sophisticated it is to marry navy blue and black?" André Leon Talley comments on a Chanel show from the Eighties as we see the footage from the runway.

On her farm on Long Island, Isabella Rossellini mischievously introduces André to Warhol, the chicken, and her two gigantic kunekune pigs Boris and Pepe which provokes him to ask a probing anatomical question.

The November 2016 election results, as well as anticipation and aftermath are shown. In a live blog with Maureen Dowd of The New York Times during the Trump inauguration ceremony, André enthusiastically critiques Melania's outfits.

A Gatsby moment (not a Weinstein one) occurred when Karl Lagerfeld after an interview invited young Talley to his bedroom and the designer flung crêpe de chine shirts and scarves at his new friend. A great veil roundup comes with Cindy Crawford as widow in a bathing suit for a spread, Jackie Kennedy, Sissi, Visconti, Marlene Dietrich, proclaiming "a kind of elegance that is no longer with us."

The help he received from and gave to Anna Wintour before she became Editor-in-Chief of Vogue - all form magnificent puzzle pieces that begin to add up to the man who is at times larger-than-life and more complicated than any of these episodes.

The most revelatory scenes go deep quickly and then leave us with irresistible narrative outfit combinations. Returning to the forest near the place where he grew up, André Leon Talley recalls the baptismal pool and his fear of snakes - because he was told stories of the reptiles that would fall asleep and drop out of trees.

The "Sunday Best" church clothes of his childhood look suddenly so similar to Yves Saint Laurent. About the rabbits roaming the garden of his own house in White Plains we learn that he likes them, but not the deer, skunks or raccoons that come by.

"Listen, I have no love life. I've never had a love life. I've never fallen in love, experienced love." His words are less confession than gentle warning that some things are none of our business. Grandma and Mrs. Vreeland would approve.

Reviewed on: 24 May 2018
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Portrait of André Leon Talley.


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