Alexander McQueen’s rags-to-riches story is a modern-day fairy tale, laced with the gothic. Mirroring the savage beauty, boldness and vivacity of his design, this documentary is an intimate revelation of his McQueen’s own world, both tortured and inspired, which celebrates a radical and mesmerizing genius of profound influence.

Hot Docs Film Review: ‘McQueen’

The brilliant, tortured fashion designer Alexander McQueen gets a documentary portrait worthy of his strange, sensual artistry.

The skull was the signature motif of the Alexander McQueen design house well before its brilliant, volatile founder committed suicide in 2010. A symbol of dark, sparse morbidity that always jarred amid the more straightforwardly glamorous imagery of McQueen’s haute couture rivals, it was fully emblematic of a design sensibility always intended to disrupt sensuality with violence, to query what the fashion industry held sacred and beautiful. Since his death, however, the logo has functioned as a monument to his memory — perhaps even a bittersweet reminder that the signs of his tragic demise were always there.

14 Revelations from the New Alexander McQueen Documentary

The new documentary McQueen, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on Sunday, both analyzes the origins of the McQueen mythos and aims to peel it away, discussing the designer’s work, personal life, and legacy through archival footage and interviews with some of his closest friends, collaborators, and family members, including McQueen’s sister Janet and his nephew and Janet’s son Gary James McQueen. (A note at the end of the film states that it was not authorized by the McQueen estate or the Alexander McQueen brand, which is still owned by Kering.) The film offers a comprehensive survey of McQueen’s career, from the ateliers of Savile Row to the halls of Givenchy, and his concomitant struggles with mental illness and addiction. (It glosses over his relationships with celebrities famous for wearing his pieces, like Lady Gaga and Sarah Jessica Parker, though the likes of Grace Jones and Janet Jackson appear in some archival clips.) Unspoken, but equally evident, is McQueen’s continuing influence on younger designers like Charles Jeffrey, himself a Central Saint Martins alum and kilt aficionado, and Iris Van Herpen, a former McQueen intern whose eponymous label is best known for 3-D printed pieces.

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