Film: McQueen and Boy Undone


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This is a beautifully assembled, unusually involving documentary about the iconic gay designer Lee Alexander McQueen, who shook up the fashion world with his working class roots and his skill at challenging the status quo with his designs. Using inventive touches, filmmaker Ian Bonhote cleverly brings out Lee’s personality and artistry. So even though in many ways this feels like another sad story about a genius who died far too young, it’s also a moving and thoroughly involving celebration of the man and his work.

Growing up in the East End, Lee was encouraged by his family to pursue his interest in fashion, worming his way into jobs in Saville Row and in Milan before getting a place to study at St Martins. From the start, he boldly challenged his audiences with brilliantly original fashions, so it wasn’t a surprise when he was snapped up by Givenchy.

Working in the rigid fashion culture of Paris wasn’t easy, but he carried on producing his own edgier designs using his middle name Alexander. And later he found more freedom working with Tom Ford at Gucci. But the fame took a toll on his personal life, leaving him lonely and addicted to drugs. And even though he was still on top artistically, two devastating personal losses pushed him to take his life at just 40 years old.

The documentary features a terrific selection of home movies, snapshots, archival film and news reports in chapters linked to McQueen’s unforgettable shows. The footage of these events is breathtaking, as are the clips of McQueen himself backstage, chatting about his life and demonstrating his dramatic physical transformation as he felt pressured to look more like his models. There are also telling interviews with the people who knew him best, including family members, colleagues and supermodels.

All of this is put together to create a powerful narrative arc that vividly depicts McQueen’s defiant originality in his life and work. And with so many clips of him speaking to the cameras, there’s a real sense that he is finally getting the chance to tell his own story. It’s a simply gorgeous film that soars during the exhilarating highs of each show, then doesn’t flinch from the darker low points. And his final show (Plato’s Atlantis in 2010) is so jaw-dropping that it makes us wish he was still creating waves in the fashion world.

McQueen is in cinemas now.


Boy Undone

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From Mexico, this insinuating, low-key thriller gets under the skin right from the start, focussing on wordless encounters and very dark emotions. It’s also full of graphic nudity and sex, to such an extent that it sometimes feels like it might tip over into a pornographic fantasy. But writer-director Leopoldo Laborde holds his nerve, and his actors maintain their strikingly intriguing characters all the way through.

The story opens as a young man (Paul Act) wakes up naked in a strange house, unable to remember his name. He also doesn’t recognise the equally naked Miguel (Eduardo Longoria), whom he has just spent the night with. Since he doesn’t know where he lives, this guy just hangs around for a few days while he tries to spark some memories. The first thing he remembers is a confusing series of sexual encounters involving two other guys and a woman. Then he runs into someone on the street who tells him his name is Fernando.

From here, the mystery grows increasingly murky and rather scary, as Laborde skilfully uses a minimalistic storytelling style that lets us see things through Fernando’s confused point of view. Act is earthy and likeable in the role, and his vulnerability contrasts sharply with Longoria’s much more confident Miguel, who is far more experienced sexually, so has a lot to teach Fernando. Later on a third actor, Rodrigo Lopezcarranza, offers the same naked commitment to the story as things shift into a more straightforward criminal thriller for the finale.

The film is most effective when these men are exploring each other physically, avoiding conversation to express themselves with only their bodies. In their early days, Fernando and Miguel are in a pure relationship, that bubble of a new attraction with no past history to worry about. This brings an enticing emotional connection to their romance without explaining it in some sort of simplistic way. And it also makes the explicit sex both steamier and sometimes more moving as well. So when things start turning dark and creepy, there’s a real sense that their worry-free existence is about to change for good. And most of us can vividly identify with how that feels.

Boy Undone is out now on DVD/VOD from TLA.

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