Movie Review: 'McQueen'

John Thomas

Frequently a highly creative person will experience difficulties in expressing ideas and thoughts to others. Their vocabulary will be unique and not understood by the average person. Ideas flying around in their heads usually need their own voice. At an early age, Lee Alexander McQueen realized he could best express himself through the clothes he designed.

Alexander McQueen began what would be a tragically short life on the 16th of March, 1969 in Lewisham, London. He was part of a large loving family and in spite of their lack of wealth he had a positive childhood. At school, Lee made pictures and drawings of clothes on any paper he could get his hands on – never mind the lessons to be learned.

Things more important than his teachers were speaking to him in his brain – things that offered him purpose and guidance. At 17 he made two skirts for one of his sisters.

From mere sketches and dreams of clothes, he finally began his formal studies at a shop on Savile Row in London. He was a fast, studious worker following all the rules and guidelines he was told. From these successful beginnings in the tailoring trade, he moved on to fashion design departments in art schools.

He became recognized for his achievements, not the usual ones of the average student, but the highly creative ones of a budding genius. One of his assistants mentioned that Lee had created a runway gown for ten quid – “One pound for a zip and the rest for some plastic sticking film, a few rolls of duct tape.”

As he became more recognized in the fashion world, he came to the attention of a highly eccentric and very wealthy patron, Isabella Blow. The two were a match made in heaven. She commonly wore outfits that sometimes far exceeded and were more outrageous than the imaginative creations of Lee’s. She purchased every garment in one of his shows – now that’s a patron! While his success grew, so did his interest in the noir. Unpleasant subjects such as rape, violent crime and murder became the focus of his collections. One show was entitled: The Theater of Cruelty.

That didn’t daunt the formidable fashion house of Givenchy from hiring him to be their creative director, nor the British Fashion Council (BFC) from awarding him designer of the year for several years.

Throughout all his successes, though, the noir voices in his head continued to drive him into the dark regions, so deeply that he came to think that society looked at him as a gazelle, “and in the end,” he said, the gazelle always gets eaten.” Later there were two events that finally extinguished the light in his life.

Directed by Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui [Credits: Alleycats and director debut] this “should see” film runs 111 minutes.


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