Monday, May 28, 2018

Fashion time again in Kate Novack's new doc, THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ANDRÉ

A big step up from last year's embarrassment about shoe designer Manolo Blahnik, this year's gift to fashionistas -- THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ANDRÉ directed by Kate Novack -- is a good deal more palatable and intelligent a film. Whether you will be interested in the life and work of one, André Leon Talley (shown at left: fashion writer/ historian and layout/photo-shoot artiste), will depend, I should think, mostly on your interest in the world of fashion. But if, say, your spouse or significant other is of that mind, should you tag along, you may find yourself at least somewhat interested in what you'll see, hear and learn. Mr Talley has a lot to say, clearly loves saying it, and more often than not makes pretty good sense. There are reasons that this great big bear of a man is so very famous.

Filmmaker Novack, pictured at right, has done a capable job of interviewing this semi-icon who was born and raised in our South, knew he had to get the hell out of there as a Black man who was also gay, and so left his beloved grandmother (who raised him) and lit out for places like New York and Paris, where he quickly made his mark as a disciple, first of Diana Vreeland and later of Anna Wintour, and then by garnering a name of his own, with which the fashion world would soon have to contend.

All this is shown (by Novack) and told us (mostly by Talley himself) via some good archival photos (such as the two final shots, below) and present-day interviews with Talley and a ton of celebrities who seem to swear by this man.

The celebs include everyone from Marc Jacobs and Tom Ford (above) to Isabella Rossellini and Whoopi Goldberg (below), Fran Lebowitz (who offers the film's funniest line -- about sex in the 1970s), Diana Ross, and of course Ms Wintour (who admits that André possesses a much greater sense of fashion history than she does).

If you follow the fashion world closely, much of what you see and hear may not seem so new to you. Since I don't follow this, the content here proved pretty interesting, even if the documentarian does not probe all that deeply. To her credit, Novack does ask (and Talley answers) questions about his enormous girth. "I bloated up after the age of 40," he explains. Later we see him trying to lose a little at the Duke Diet and Fitness Center in North Carolina. He never appears to have had any ongoing, heavy-duty intimate relationship with anyone, and clearly does not care to go much into the reasons why -- other than the usual excuse of career and too much work.

In fact, Talley spends more time bemoaning the nasty comments he overheard regarding the reasons for his relationship with Vreeland (was he her "big black buck"?) and the appellation affixed to him as "Queen Kong." But this is more than countered by some of his conceptions and famous photos shoots  -- Cindy Crawford as a sexy widow, veiled but in her skivvies, and that Vanity Fair fashion piece aping Gone with the Wind but with the races reversed.

After Trump's election, he blogs for The New York Times about Melania's elegance at the inauguration, and near the end of the documentary we're back in a Black church in the south-- the place from which Talley says he gained his earliest and most enduring sense of fashion. At the close of the movie, one of his acolytes claims, regarding Mr Talley, that "Under it all is a very fine cashmere heart." Huh? A heart made of cashmere? Now that's a new one!

From Magnolia Pictures and running 94 minutes, The Gospel According to André, after opening in our cultural centers last week, hits South Florida and elsewhere this Friday, June 1. In Miami, it will play the O Cinema Wynwood. Wherever you live around the country, click here to find the theater(s) nearest you.

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