It's Fashion Week in Winnipeg!
OK, there may not be a supermodel in sight, but style-loving Winnipeggers can check out a fashion double bill at Cinematheque this week, along with a clothes-themed art happening at the University of Winnipeg.
L'Amour Fou is a documentary look at the late French couturier Yves Saint Laurent, who did his first collection for the House of Dior at age 21 (21!) and went on to become a legendary tastemaker. I felt a tad under-dressed watching decades of YSL's chic designs, along with spectacular panoramas of the houses and objets d'art he collected with Pierre Bergé, his business and romantic partner of more than 50 years.
The still photos and archival footage are gorgeous. (There's a Goya, there's a Matisse. Oh, and there's Andy Warhol. And isn't that Mick Jagger playing the piano?) It's art as life and life as art, and it's all quite killingly French.
Unfortunately, filmmaker Pierre Thoretton makes the odd decision to structure the film around the auction of Saint Laurent and Bergé's art and antique collection. There are only glimpses of the inner man--of the way relentless industry deadlines and an almost pathological shyness in the face of fame drove Saint Laurent into depression and drug abuse. With a lot of surface and not much substance, this film will please fashionistas but probably frustrate a general audience.
Bill Cunningham: New York, on the other hand, is packed with style but also manages to be a beautiful, moving character study of an absolutely lovely man. Cunningham has been chronicling New York street fashion for decades. He's now in his eighties, and he still rides around the city on his bike, snapping candid pics for The New York Times.
This is just one of the happiest movies you'll ever see. There's an irrepressible, irresistible, inspirational joy in Cunningham's devoted, democratic love of fashion. He's never been interested in "the celebrities and their free dresses;" he cares about what real people are wearing on the street right now.
Cunningham himself is like a photography monk, completely uninfluenced by fame or money or industry swag. He lives in a tiny studio that's a warren of photo-packed filing cabinets, with a small single bed propped up on art books. He gets by on a pittance and has no expensive clothes of his own, preferring the utilitarian blue coats used by Paris street-cleaners.
"If you don't take money, they can't tell you what to do. That's the key to the whole thing," he says, by way of explaining his stubbornly independent career. And in his selfless and sweet-natured way, he's become a force in the fashion world. As Vogue editor Anna Wintour says, "We all get dressed for Bill."
Meanwhile, over at the University of Winnipeg, The Ephemerals, an artists' collective made up of three Aboriginal women, have been "embedded" in the campus for the past few days, popping up in performances that comment on the connections between fashion and indigenous identity. The trio has also created a multimedia installation in the anthropology cases on the university's fourth floor. One features a museological display of mukluks and beaded moccasins collected by the university's scholars as anthropological artifacts. The other looks more like a store window in a 21st-century mall, showcasing instances of "tribal chic" that have been absorbed--often in weird, mixed-up ways--into the fashion mainstream.
Alison Gillmor, CBC Reviewer