Film Review: McQUEEN (UK 2018) ***1/2

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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… See full summary »


Ian BonhôtePeter Ettedgui (co-director)


Written by Peter Ettedgui, directed by Ian Bonhôte and co-directed by Ettedgui, McQUEEN is the no-nonsense documentary on British fashion designer and couturier Lee Alexander McQueen who shocked the world when he committed suicide by hanging himself at the age of 40, at his home in Mayfair, London.  

The controversial Alexander McQueen himself reveals: “A lot of people say, I’ve discovered Alexander McQueen.  But I discovered Alexander McQueen.”  His resume included being chief designer at Givenchy from 1996 to 2001.  That and his achievement in creating his own Alexander McQueen label earned him 4 British Designer of the Year Awards.

Though he passed on in 2010, It is fortunate that there is enough archive footage assembled to have him speak candidly on camera about his work, colleagues, friends and life, as if he was still alive.  The doc thus provides an insightful and comprehensive examination of McQueen.

The doc reveals McQueen’s family life with information of his youth and some shocking information of abuse from his father and sister’s husband, though no details are given.  His Scottish heritage makes an impression on him and his designs.  The film goes on, chronologically as he grows up, with little money through his rise in fame, with his mentors and colleagues.  McQueen was openly gay, with several boyfriends saying their spill on camera.  

The film is tremendously interesting from start to finish as the subject himself was interesting.  The film, like the man never fails to surprise with his humour, wit and talent on show.

The film glows with the coverage of his shows that reveal his genius in his designs.  His themes are dark.  two of them are called “Jack the Ripper” and “The Highland Rape”.

Among the many messages that can be discovered in the man’s life is that success not only comes from talent but hard work.  The film shows McQueen working hard into many a night, a compulsive worker.  The successful and wealthy often know poverty.  McQueen worked hard as he was broke.  And the adage that success does not bring happiness is evident in the last days of McQueen’s life. “Being famous is not important,: he says “What is, is what I do.”  But with money, (McQueen quickly became a millionaire), came drugs and unhappiness.

The film takes a darker side at the hour mark when McQueen’s drug habit is revealed.  He becomes, what his employees call ‘a taskmaster’.  Worst still, he is diagnosed HIV positive.  McQueen’s appearance also changes as the film progresses.  He is practically a different person at the start compared to the man he becomes at the end of the film.

Important and included in the film is the difficult issue of McQueen’s death.  The interviewed talk about the possible reasons for the suicide as well as the troubled man he became.

It would have also been insightful if director compared McQueen’s life with other famous designer icons to put McQueen’s life in perspective.  Still, McQueen is an intriguing film about a gay man who went beyond his boundaries to prove himself capable of being world famous despite his personal demons.  

McQUEEN is so far the top box-office grossing fashioned themed documentary in the U.K..


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