Review: Rags to riches McQueen doc plays it straight but a bit dull

PUBLISHED: 09:10 15 June 2018 | UPDATED: 09:10 15 June 2018

Alexander McQueen. Photo: Lionsgate Films

Alexander McQueen. Photo: Lionsgate Films


Documentary stitches together the life of Alexander McQueen, tortured genius of working class origins, openly gay trailblazer, who challenged the fashion establishment, from his awkward teenage years to global catwalk stardom.

Alexander McQueen and Shalom Harlow. Photo: Lionsgate FilmsAlexander McQueen and Shalom Harlow. Photo: Lionsgate Films

McQueen (15)


Faced with the prospect of a screening of a documentary about a great British fashion designer, I thought I ought to make a bit of an effort. So I rolled up in a 20th century short sleeve shirt (not vintage, just unchucked), scuffed shoes and unfashionably distressed jeans.

Alexander McQueen. Photo: Lionsgate FilmsAlexander McQueen. Photo: Lionsgate Films

I needn’t have bothered. Lee Alexander McQueen was a tubby East End boy who would often slouch out after his shows in scruffy attire that was a little bit too keen to show that he was still street.

Professionally he was forced to go with his middle name Alexander because there is just no way you can tart up the single syllable Lee.

He did though have an innate gift for tailoring, a fierce desire to learn and an unstoppable ambition that saw him putting on catwalk shows while he was still on the dole. He was also possessed of any number of demons that would eventually nudge him to take his own life, aged 40. He said he “pulls horrors out of myself and put it on the catwalk.”

Alexander McQueen. Photo: Lionsgate FilmsAlexander McQueen. Photo: Lionsgate Films

A few years back a McQueen biopic was promised but we have been spared that and instead get this straightforward, chronological telling of his life.

The film is built upon the masses of home videos of himself he left behind, supplemented with an array of faces chipping in on his talent, his personality and his addictions.

It is certainly well presented with some classy title cards and is whisked through to the accompaniment of old Michael Nyman soundtracks.

The footage of his shows, more like performance art happenings than the usually catwalk bustle, demonstrate that he was someone with a real vision, one so strong that it could communicate to those with no interest in fashion. So maybe it’s a wee bit disappointing that the film of his life is so conventional and unlikely to appeal to anybody not already interested in the story.

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