McQueen begins with a macabre opening title sequence reminiscent of the TV series Hannibal; the film presents a decadently lurid series of human skulls, butterflies, and blood. And this morbid visual poetry sets the tone for the tragic story that lays ahead.
Going into the documentary I knew three things about Alexander McQueen; he was a superstar fashion designer; his style was unconventional; he died young. Co-directors Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui do a great job explaining who their subject was, how he rose to prominence, and why he mattered. The film uses archival footage – including lots of clips of McQueen speaking to the camera – and interviews with family, friends, and coworkers to paint a portrait of his personal and professional life.
I have no interest in the world of high-fashion, but I still found McQueen’s story riveting. In his youth, he was a talented artist, but a poor student and his pursuit of fashion revealed his untapped potential. He shares one story about using his unemployment wages to finance his early fashion shows. The film tells a compelling rags-to-riches tale while also serving up a dazzling feast for your eyes. The man crafted fashion collections like no one else and his runway shows were big on spectacle. He preferred elaborate sets littered with broken-down cars and dumpster fires. As for the clothes, they look like something from a dark fairy-tale. McQueen, who went on to take his own life, drew inspiration from his inner-darkness and his feelings of being an outsider.
McQueen delivers an entertaining and informative story that borders on hagiography. One gets the sense that the most unflattering stories remain on the cutting room floor. The documentary should appeal to his life-long fans as well as newbies.