The exotic, slightly alien world of fashion seems to attract the type of character that fascinates filmmakers. Passionate, driven, beautifully eccentric people populate the world of couture at every level and make ideal protagonists in both fictional and documentary movies. Here is a smattering of the best forgotten fashion flicks you may have missed.
The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant
Like in many of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s films – insanity, sexuality and co-dependency bubble up to the surface and explode dramatically in this tale of a fashion designer and her mental breakdown. Petra, the designer in question, never seems to do any work at all and instead allows her assistant, who takes her abuse with masochistic glee, to do everything. Camp, tawdry and ridiculous in the best way possible.
Bill Cunningham’s New York Bill
An exceptionally arresting documentary portrait of a man devoted and defined by fashion. Bill Cunningham, after a stint as a milliner, drifted into photography and soon became a prominent chronicler of street fashion and high society for the New York Times. He’s almost saint-like, living frugally, painfully humble and decent to the core.
The Eye Has To Travel
Fashion seems to attract passionate outcasts who wash up on its shores after failed ventures. Diana Vreeland, as this documentary reveals, was a socialite and lingerie designer before becoming a columnist for Harper’s in 1936 and going on to become one of the most influential fashion figures of the decade, despite no formal training.
If you like your comedies with a large dollop of screwball, you’ll love this 1957 Vincente Minnelli farce with Gregory Peck as a hard-bitten sports reporter and Lauren Bacall as the fashion designer he impetuously marries and instantly regrets. The culture clash between the rarified existence of couture and the real world underpins the whole endeavour. Plus the frocks are delightful.
The pressures, pain and sheer lunacy of the creative process are exposed in this provocative documentary profiling designer Isaac Mizrahi as he prepares his 1994 collection. Director, and at the time Mizrahi’s boyfriend, Douglas Keeve trains his camera on the tantrums as well as the glamour, with the result that the relationship didn’t last too long after the premiere.