McQueen - Movie Review by Ben Cahlamer




Directed by Ian Bonhote and Peter Ettedgui

Written by Peter Ettedgui

Starring Magdalena Frackowiak, Gary James McQueen, Alexander McQueen, Janet McQueen


To look at someone’s life is to bare their soul, release their burden. I don’t know who said that, but it sounded good. The opening statement says a lot about what I took away from Ian Bonhote and Peter Ettedgui’s documentary, McQueen, the story of Alexander McQueen, a Scottish lad who found his way by expressing himself through fashion.

Bonhote and Ettegui designed the documentary around several cassettes, which compartmentalize McQueen’s life. Born Lee Alexander McQueen, he was the youngest of six children. His dad Ronald was a taxi driver, his mum Joyce and social science teacher. The first cassette talks about his home life when he was a wee lad.

His mum made it a point that he wasn’t going to sit at home, doing nothing. She saw an advert for apprenticeships on the famed Saville Row, where he learned to create an impeccably tailored look. McQueen attended school where his teachers recognized his talent, putting him into the MA program at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. The documentary lays out his journey from Saville Row apprentice all the way to influential fashion stylist Isabella Blow discovering him.

In the second of the cassettes, Blow took McQueen, now known by his middle name, Alexander to places he might have gotten on his own. We get to meet Katy England, a very influential individual in his early creative works.

The third cassette goes on to describe McQueen’s more controversial and shocking runway collections. The documentary doesn’t shy away from this because I suspect that is what made him who he was. This second of the documentary focused on his theatricality and what video is included of his work was shocking to say the least. But I think it expressed who he was emotionally. As a critic, I could look at it with dispassion, but that’s not how I felt when Bonhote and Ettegui presented it in their documentary.

The last cassettes deal with McQueen’s downfall, but not before his stint at famed Givenchy. McQueen was opinionated, but he was also resolute to create art that the world would know him for. His first show for them did not go very well, but once he pared back his designs, he found his groove again.

McQueen was openly gay and much to my surprise and delight, Bonhote and Ettegui don’t shy away from it. In fact, knowing this about him made his art unique. His mum was openly okay with her son, but his dad had troubles. He eventually came around. His partner was also interviewed. You could tell that even though they were not together as a couple, there was still love present.

The final cassette focused on McQueen’s death. Not long before, his mum’s health deteriorated resulting in her death. The documentary makes the assertion that they were very close with one another and that this contributed to his suicide on February 11, 2010. His family and friends were shocked and saddened. He had so much more to give, but the documentary celebrates all that he was.

I was not familiar with Alexander McQueen before I watched the documentary. “McQueen” goes a long way towards sharing his life, in a very positive way.

Rating 3 out of 4