Friday, February 8, 2019

The best fashion documentary in a long, long while: James Crump's giddily entertaining, hugely informative ANTONIO LOPEZ 1970 -- SEX, FASHION & DISCO

How in hell could it be that a documentary this good -- enormously entertaining, full of new information and all about the world's favorite meaningless preoccupation (fashion) -- didn't get a decent theatrical release in the USA? TrustMovies suspects that this was due to the fact that the subject of ANTONIO LOPEZ 1970: SEX, FASHION & DISCO, Mr. Lopez himself, a great fashion illustrator in his day, is simply not that well known outside the fashion field.

Unlike figures such as Karl Lagerfeld and Andy Warhol, who are also seen in this film, Lopez was much better known to fashion insiders rather than to the general public. I myself had never heard of him when I sat down to view this grab-you-by-your-lapels-and-dance-you-off-to-discoland doc -- which held me in thrall for all of its 95 minutes.

As written and directed by James Crump (shown at left), the documentary introduces its unusual subject and then immediately pulls you in via compelling interviews with quite an array of fashion folk and celebrities. Fortunately, these are not simply the usual suspects. (Mr. Lopez's life and career was far too free and full for that.)

By the end of the film, Mr. Crump has made a very good case for Lopez (shown above and below) being one of, if not the most talented and important figure in all of the fashion/celebrity world, easily eclipsing the likes of marketing maven Warhol -- about whom we hear yet again how "not there" the man was, so far as his so-called art was concerned.

We see and hear about Lopez's personal life and rampant sexuality, his groundbreaking illustration (below and further below) and about the manner in which he worked, why the result was so different from anything seen before (or since, really), and of the many icons he discovered -- from Jessica Lange to Jerry Hall to Grace Jones, along with more famous models than I have time to list here.

We also hear plenty from Grace Coddington, whose thoughtful, intelligent commentary greatly enriches the film. Best of all, however, and the moral center of the movie, is the delightfully rambunctious and greatly missed Bill Cunningham, whose remembrances of Lopez and his lover/partner Juan Ramos, provide much of the humor and emotion, together with a sense of great caring for a time, place and people, the likes of which and whom we will not see again.

What a difference is the Bill Cunningham (at left, below) shown here from the older, much more staid fellow we saw in that very lovely (but very "correct") documentary, Bill Cunningham New York! (If you enjoy this film as much as did I, you'll also want to watch the extended interview with Cunningham that is part of the Bonus Features on the DVD.)

Mr. Crump is also to be congratulated for giving us such lovely footage of Jessica Lange (below), seemingly speaking off the cuff and from the heart. She is, as usual, a pleasure to see and hear -- even more so telling us about a time and place we had no idea she'd been such a part of.

The documentary flips back and forth in time between the 60s and 70s yet is so lively and fun, you won't mind at all. And what to make of the young Karl Lagerfeld (below) we view here? Quite a difference from the éminence grise we've seen over the past couple of decades! His treatment of Antonio at the end of the latter's career, as told us by Cunningham, makes for the emotional high point of the film.

Most important, of course, is Lopez himself, and Crump makes it clear what a wonder he was. A better artist than Warhol, he had not a whit of interest in marketing. And that seems to have made the major difference between their careers.

Antonio wanted to live and create (and have as much sex as possible) -- all of which he did. We have not, nor probably will we, encounter this combo of talent, personality and achievement in the fashion field again.

From Film Movement and arriving on DVD and digital this coming Tuesday, February 12, Antonio Lopez: Sex, Fashion & Disco will be available for purchase and/or rental. Click here to view the various ways in which you can see this documentary.

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