Arts

    The compelling new documentary, “McQueen” opening at the Landmark Ritz Five on Aug. 10, recounts the rollercoaster life and career of the late, great, out gay designer Lee Alexander McQueen. In five chapters, co-directors Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui trace the subject’s humble origins and phenomenal rise to the top of the fashion industry. According to revealing interviews with family members, collaborators and boyfriends, McQueen was passionate, focused and romantic — and not afraid to shock. One naughty runway show, titled “The Highland Rape,” generated headlines for featuring nudity, violence against women and pubic hair. His mantra was, “Be as different as you can,” and as “McQueen” illustrates, his daring paid off handsomely. He secured a job as chief designer at Givenchy (where he treated his staff like equals) while also designing his eponymous line. His risqué shows, prominently featured in the doc, were spectacles. Watch as two robots “paint” Shalom Harlow modeling a white dress, or his Voss show, featuring one-way mirrors and moths, and try not to be wowed. “McQueen” will also wow viewers who want to marvel at the outrageous couture and extraordinary silhouettes. The filmmakers address the designer’s personal demons: He became unhappy as a celebrity, and the pressure to achieve — along with drug use, surgeries (to look thinner) and even an HIV diagnosis — took a toll on his life. Lonely and depressed, he eventually took his life. While “McQueen” may be a mix of hagiography and cautionary tale, the film — like the designer’s shows — generates real emotions.

Everybody who knows me knows that I am more than a little enamored with our upstairs geographic neighbor. Being a comedian, I get to spend a considerable amount of time in Canada every year. If you’ve never been there, I suggest you visit, you know … before these ham-fisted Trump tariffs mess it up for everybody.

Film festivals devoted to under-represented communities in cinema provide the best opportunities to see reflections of self on screen.

Now in its seventh year, the Black Star Film Festival, unspooling Aug. 2-5 at various locations in Philadelphia, offers 80 shorts, documentaries and features that depict African-American, African-diaspora and other communities.

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