Netflix UK film review: McQueen (2018)
Ivan Radford | On 01, Nov 2018
Director: Ian Bonhôte, Peter Ettedgui
Cast: Alexander McQueen, Bernard Arnault, Joseph Bennett, Detmar Blow
Watch McQueen online in the UK: Netflix UK / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten.TV / Google Play / Sky Store
Alexander McQueen. Whether you know your fashion or you don’t, it remains a household name, and this documentary is an intelligent, insightful demonstration why. The British fashion designer was a working-class boy who wore his roots proudly on display, and took that same, boisterous, bolshy attitude and turned it into clothes for people to wear – or, perhaps more accurately, to create art.
McQueen was astonishing as he was divisive, and Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui’s portrait of the artist works superbly as a beautiful video album of his greatest hits, from his Jack the Ripper-inspired collection to a boldly queasy Voss show from 2001 (if you haven’t seen it before, we won’t spoil the final tableau). But it works even better as a behind-the-scenes look at each of them, giving an unflinching window onto the genius, and darkness, that fuelled McQueen.
On the outside, he was as far from Tom Ford (an admirer of his) as you could imagine, but beneath his East End exterior was a savagely talented fabric wizard, whose apprenticeship on Savile Row give him the skill to cut through material with a pair of scissors that would leave others alarmed until they realised what he was doing. He cut through the airs and graces of haute couture with a similar swish, choosing to eat in the canteen with the workers when he was at Givenchy and blithely listening to Sinead O’Connor on his Walkman.
He was a man dancing to his own tune, but the documentary charts the tragedy of that tune starting to change into the beat of the wider industry, leading to his own unhappiness, uncharacteristic liposuction and substance abuse. It’s a transformation that’s relayed by those closest to him with grim frankness and a moving tenderness. With its talking heads format and chronological structure, the result could be a generic documentary of casual interest to fashion lovers, but Bonhôte and Ettedgui dive too deep for this to risk feeling superficial. There’s a real sense of revelation to this sombre celebration of a homegrown talent, one that dazzles with his technological flourishes (“Oh no, the robots again…”) and hits hard with his tragic childhood memories. Accompanied by a mellifluous Michael Nyman score, McQueen leaves your jaw hanging – and your heart wishing that he was still with us today to be experimenting in other media.
McQueen is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.