IDFA, Tribeca, Palm Springs, CPH:DOX, RiverRun, Montclair, IFF Boston, Seattle, Melbourne Queer,
A portrait of influential fashion editor André Leon Talley.
A living legend in the fashion world, most notably for a long stint at Vogue, Talley cuts a distinctive figure. In an industry that has been dominated by white men and women, Talley, an African-American man from the American South – the grandson of a sharecropper, no less – emerged as an unlikely tastemaker. As he notes in Novack’s admiring retrospective, his ascent was so unusual that many dismissively assumed he had slept his way into fashion circles, calling forth racial, sexual, and homophobic stereotypes that still visibly pain him in their recounting. Despite this, and the awkward focus on the 2016 US Presidential election that serves as an unusual backdrop here, the film largely remains celebratory and positive, offering an overview of Talley’s long career, his close friendships with the who’s who of fashion and celebrity, and how he came to become one of the most recognizable men in the industry. At the same time, though seemingly candid and at ease under Novack’s camera, there’s a strange avoidance of fully addressing Talley’s sexuality and personal life. He quickly closes off the topic of relationships, suggesting an asexuality that comes close to being an erasure of an obvious part of his very public persona – it is, after all, no secret that he’s a gay man, but the film never really explores this facet, or its influence on his career, to any real degree. Leaving this aside, Talley’s strong presence, and his decades-spanning career, make this an enjoyable exploration of the mark one man has left on fashion.