Thursday, 14 June 2018

Film: 'McQueen'

Not knowing much about, nor even caring about, the world of women's, or any other, fashion, the name of (Lee) Alexander McQueen had been a feeble bleep on my radar of awareness - at least until his suicide in 2010 at the tragically young age of 40 (and on the eve of his own mother's funeral whom he'd adored). So this documentary was destined to be an education for me as much as anything else. 

Lots of footage of talk by members of his immediate and extended family, his former relationships, professionals he'd worked with and fashion celebrities who'd known him - all intercut with film of many of his catwalk fashion shows.
I knew about his reputation for the outrageous, and his creations shown here don't disappoint in that aspect - though I have to say that I just don't 'get' him, thus my being nonplussed by all the fuss over them.  
The catwalk exhibitions are less advertisements of what one might want to wear than a series of tableaux, usually modelled in singles, sometimes in groups. 
It may be obvious, but I have to assume that none of his costumes are seriously designed to be worn. Even if someone wishes to create a sensation in, say, a nightclub, it's a very transitory thing - once seen one doesn't especially long to see it again, and the person sporting such uncomfortable costume must be hoping that they don't again bump into someone who's already viewed it. I'd have thought that once worn it may as well be binned - often the material used is very basic anyway. 

McQueen's determination to succeed at what he liked to do manifested at an early age in London (to his father's displeasure) and he could be rude in his convictions and single-mindedness - as well as giving rise to worries over his dabbling in drugs, specifically cocaine. 
His suicide (by hanging) was hinted at before the event, though not when and how - and when it did come it was a shock that reverberated through the fashion world. 

You may accurately guess that I just don't appreciate this wunderkind of the fashion world. A genius? I must give way to more knowledgeable opinions than mine while I put my own view in suspension. Reviews I've seen, and ratings I quote below, tell me that I'm out on a limb on this one, though that's hardly anything new. 
But it's by no means a dull film. McQueen's boyish charm and exuberance comes over time and time again, though as for anyone who crossed swords with him, it's easy to see who would come out on top. And whatever one thinks of McQueen, one has to conclude that his premature demise was a very sad and needless waste......6.
( Imdb.........9 / Rotten Tomatoes.........8 )


12 comments:

  1. Suicide is almost always a waste. The only justification I can see to such a final act is having an illness that you're never going to recover from; you're in great pain that you're not going to recover from or you're about to be tortured beyond your imagination. Having said that though, suicide is always a personal decision and once someone decides they no longer want to live, that should be their decision alone, sad and shameful and wasteful as it seems. Alexander McQueen, a great name for a fashion designer, to me was vastly overrated as a fashion designer. As you may or may not know, in my early days I wanted to be a fashion designer. The one thing I know to be a successful fashion designer one has to design clothes that are not only fashionable but comfortable to wear. Most of Alexander McQueen's design were more for show than wear.
    Ron

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    1. I'd not remembered your early desire to be a fashion designer, Ron. Obviously you still will have some residual interest or more in the subject, so you may well get much more out of this film than I did. But we are at one on our views of the man, his popularity continuing to perplex me, seeming to be based more on courting notoriety than talent in creating quality work (though some might well see 'quality' in his creations while you and I can't.) I doubt if any of his designs gave a second thought as to 'comfort' - in fact a lot of them looked darned painful to wear!

      Suicide is not an easy matter to come down on one side or the other. In some respects it can be a very courageous thing to do, yet looked at in another way it can also be very selfish. But how can one cast stones when one has no idea of the state of mind of the one who makes the decision? I don't see how we can ever be qualified or knowledgeable enough to condemn it out of hand. As you say, it just HAS to be a personal matter - even though it can be, and so often is, a tragic waste.

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  2. Objectively speaking, as a documentary film, I thought it was superbly put together and well crafted and documented and in the correct order. On that basis I thought you could have given it a higher score, whether or not you are interested in the fashion design world. I am interested in the fashion industry and so enjoyed it immensely today and found it very informative.

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    1. Perhaps you're right, Rachel. A lot of my reaction lay in being perplexed at how anyone could think that his creations were proper 'fashion' in the sense that they'd likely be bought up by the public to actually wear, which they manifestly aren't designed to do. It would have been closer to have described his shows as 'art exhibitions', and I'd have less quarrel with that. Maybe my exasperation carried over into judging the film, rather than the subject, for what it was and so you may well be correct. Anyway, pleased you got so much from it.

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    2. I wrote briefly about it in my post yesterday, before the football paragraph if you would like to read it. I deliberately didn't read yours until after I had seen the film.

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    3. I actually did see your blog on this earlier this morning, Rachel, but wasn't in the mood to write anything contentious in disagreement. But now that the chance is being re-presented to me, all I'd say is that I don't see how McQueen as an icon for wearable fashion can be considered as someone to emulate. His discipline and expertise in cutting, shaping etc, yes certainly, but surely he was more like someone to look up to if one is aspiring to be an iconoclastic creator of UNwearable clothing (very imaginative, I grant you) rather than a designer of clothes that will last more than a day and be satisfyingly functional and comfortable as well as attractive - which I would have thought will be what most students wish to do. But what do I know? It's a world that is alien to me.

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    4. His skills were second to none and he went through the hoops of an apprenticeship. I think that is very important in any discipline. For fashion to move forward, as in anything else in life, there has to be something way out there in front to inspire (not a word I use lightly as many will know who follow me) or we would be stuck going nowhere. I don't think he would have had so much respect if he wasn't so hands on and so able to do every job himself in the workshop and in demand in both Paris and Italy and his innovation. All rather clichéd I know, but true. Everything that he made, however way out it was, fitted like a glove, and he had the utmost respect for his pattern cutters and workers in his workshop, as was shown in the film. If you speak to designers of mass produced clothes they will tell you that they would be nowhere without designs coming down from the top from people like McQueen.

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    5. I'll have to give way to your immeasurably greater knowledge of the fashion world, Rachel, which I willingly do. Even as the film was playing I felt like an outsider looking in. If I saw it again (though I don't plan to) with what you've said and informed me of I should well have a greater insight int the man and his work. But even so the film did add on for me a layer of awareness about him to cover my hitherto skeletal feelings. So in the additional light of your own subsequent appreciations I'll withhold further criticisms. But thanks for shedding some light on the subject.

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  3. I wasn't sure as I read the title if this was Steve or Alexander.
    Both would be fun stories to tell, though,Alexander McQueen's story is the more tragic of the two.

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    1. I used to have the same problem, Bob - though if by Steve McQ you mean the actor of the 50s-70s it gets even more confusing, unless you really did mean the contemporary director. (See what I mean?)
      This film is of interest if you know something of the man but were it not for his tragic, untimely and headline-grabbing end I would have known hardly anything of him. I suppose this film helped to flesh him and his story out a bit.

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