Fashion’s Cinematic Tapestry: From Glamour to Grit

Last Updated: June 13, 2024By

Fashion’s Cinematic Tapestry: From Glamour to Grit
For all those who chatter about the unfairness of “cancel culture,” the story of British fashion guru John Galliano offers a compelling twist. Booted out of his gig as the creative honcho at Christian Dior in 2011 due to a nasty bout of anti-Semitic remarks, he wandered in the wilderness for two years before snagging gigs with Oscar de la Renta and later Maison Margiela, where he’s been for a decade now. Celebrities still flaunt his creations on fancy red carpets. Life moves on, doesn’t it? Kevin Macdonald’s flick “High & Low: John Galliano” (you can catch it on Mubi starting April 26th) delves into Galliano’s rollercoaster journey with a more critical lens than you might expect, especially given that it’s partly backed by the highfalutin Vogue publisher Condé Nast. While it nods at Galliano’s distinct style, it also isn’t shy about pointing out his personal missteps, courtesy of an industry that often lets such behavior slide.

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Fashion Flair on Film

The fashion world, with its mix of glam and penchant for drama, has always been ripe for the silver screen. The clothes dazzle, while the cutthroat business behind it all adds the spice. Macdonald’s film is just one in a string of recent fashion documentaries hitting the mark: “McQueen” by Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui painted a poignant picture of Alexander McQueen’s tumultuous life, matching his extravagant style with a flamboyant narrative and a humane touch. Frédéric Tcheng’s “Dior and I” delves into the creative process behind designer Raf Simons’s debut at the iconic French fashion house, offering a captivating peek behind the curtain. Tcheng also directed “Halston,” a riveting portrait of the disco-era designer’s rise and fall, from trendsetter to forgotten figure by the time AIDS took him in 1990.

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Fashion Biopics: Double Trouble

The French have a peculiar habit of churning out biopics of their fashion icons in pairs: two Coco Chanel tales in 2009, two Yves Saint Laurent flicks five years later. Both sets offer different takes, each with its own flair. And there’s a common thread of reverence for the fashion itself, as you’d expect from French filmmakers. Contrast this with Ridley Scott’s “House of Gucci,” which seemed more interested in the label’s scandals than its couture.

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Fashion on the Fringes

Satirizing the industry is no easy feat. “The Devil Wears Prada” strikes a chord with its portrayal of the fashion mag world, balancing cruelty with a sharp critique of high-mindedness. Robert Altman’s “Prêt-à-Porter” tried but fell flat, while “Zoolander” nailed the fine line between absurdity and reality with its goofball humor. And let’s not forget the candy-coated fantasy of “Funny Face,” where Audrey Hepburn transforms from bookish to chic.

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Nicolas Winding Refn’s “The Neon Demon” takes modeling to grotesque extremes, while “Personal Shopper” turns the cool celebrity-styling scene into a chilling ghost story. “Cruella” offers a backstory for the villainess, with fabulous frocks but perhaps not enough darkness.

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Fashion Drama: From Diva to Muse

For sheer divadom, Daniel Day-Lewis’s portrayal of a prissy couturier in “Phantom Thread” is hard to beat. And then there’s the 1975 oddity “Mahogany,” which struggles to make a sympathetic protagonist out of a fashion designer.

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New Releases Worth Watching

“Last Summer,” a wicked pleasure from veteran French provocateur Catherine Breillat, explores female sexuality with biting humor. “The Three Musketeers: Milady” offers a rollicking romp in classic swashbuckler style. And Criterion’s release of Akira Kurosawa’s “Dreams” provides a glimpse into the legendary director’s subconscious.

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Fashion on film is a rich tapestry, weaving together glamour, grit, and everything in between. Whether it’s the highs of haute couture or the lows of industry politics, there’s always a story to be told.

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