At no point in my life have I ever purchased an issue of Vogue, let alone ANY fashion magazine. My experience is limited to only a few scant documentaries on the subject. My first exposure was the outstanding THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE featuring the lovely Anna Wintour as she was followed by a crew putting together the famous annual “fashion report” and all of the chaos around this titular magazine. More recenty, there was the documentary FRANCA: CHAOS & CREATION about Italian Vogue editor Franca Sozzani that as well shone a light on the passion behind her craft and the people around her that helped her love life.
So what is it about these fashion documentaries that really interest me? It could possibly be that, like any documentary about a filmmaker behind the scenes, these people are passionate artists completely devoted to their craft and are given the task of showing their love to everyone. You see a genuine drive in their head as they absolutely love what they do. And that’s the ultimate inspiration at the end of the day.
Kate Novack’s terrific documentary THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ANDRÉ (which I first watched at last winter’s Whistler Film Festival and is now getting a limited Canadian release) is a fascinating look into a colorful individual named André Leon Talley, who now serves as Vogue’s current editor. The movie has a delicate but fascinating mixture of vintage footage as you see André grow up in the segregated South of the US and his eventual climb into his current career.
Quickly, one can sense the two women that set André on his path; his grandmother Bennie who raised him with a (lovable) iron fist, and columnist Diane Vreeland (there is also a recent documentary about her work as well), which eventually led him to the unique perspective on fashion sense that made him the magazine editor that he is today. André’s passion really sets him apart, but he is also noticeable for his oversized, six-and-a-half-foot tall presence as well as just being naturally funny and affable.
André really is amazing to watch on screen and especially how he interacts with others; a memorable sequence involves André talking with a close friend on Hot Dogs & Caviar that nearly had me on the floor with laughter on how weird it all was. His comedy is there but you also see his genuine love for the business, too, as you see his deep intelligence throughout. As mentioned before, this is the most inspiring thing of all and where the Novack’s documentary soars.
That inspiration is where THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ANDRÉ hit me the most and I know will inspire many documentary fans. It is entertaining through and through as well, and definitely works on the big screen where the tall André will even be more imposing on screen. If this is your first documentary experience, it will definitely want you to seek out all of these other fashion documentaries which are also all available on home video. Get watching!
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ANDRE is now playing in Toronto and Vancouver, with a limited Canadian release to follow. And stay for the end credits!
Note: portions of this review were used for my article on my previous outlet efilmcritic.com for coverage at the Whistler Film Festival last year.