katrinaolson.ca - Halston (Sundance 2019)

Posted on Wednesday, February 06, 2019 at 04:00 PM

KO Review of Halston (Sundance 2019)

Review by Katrina Olson-Mottahed x CalgaryMovies.com

Part 1: KO Sundance Film Festival 2019 + Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile >
Part 3: We Rise Up (Sundance 2019) >

The story of the American designer Roy Halston Frowick, affectionately known as Halston. The film which I am going to categorize as a dramocumentary (slightly dramatic documentary) was written and directed by Frédéric Tcheng (known for fashion docs Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel and Dior and I). In this dramocumentary, Tavi Gevinson plays Chloe, the narrator uncovering VHS tapes in the Halston archives from the 1970’s and 80’s footage from fashion shows and interviews of the late designer. The mood of the film is set, opening in the 1960’s with heavy jazz music and found footage from the parties of New York socialites dressed by Halston from his days working in the milner boutique inside Bergdorf Goodman, his start in the fashion world.

At the end of that decade, he makes a move to open his own boutique salon and quickly rises to the top of the fashion scene of elite WASP America when he dresses Jacqueline Kennedy in the pillbox hat she wore to the JFK inauguration ceremony as president. From there his popularity quickly spread with the invention of “HOT PANTS”. The footage with famous friends and interviews during this era are gold. We see first hand accounts from Liza Minnelli, Elsa Peretti and parties with Andy Warhol that must have been the pinnacle of that decade.

Halston’s simplicity of an abstract cut pattern was simple, but remarkable for the times in fashion. He wasn’t afraid to dress women of all ethnicities, shapes and sizes. The unconventional techniques of his fashion shows were criticized because they strayed from the norm, but they garnered the A-list of the times: Elizabeth Taylor, Bianca Jagger and Martha Graham.

The film progresses chronologically from the 1960’s into the 70’s when Halston meets his bad-boy boyfriend Victor Hugo and sells his namesake brand. Halston refines his personal image to a clean cut slick look wearing black turtlenecks with white jackets accompanied always with black shades and a lit cigarette. Then in the midst of this decade, Elsa Peretti designs the ultra mod bottle for the Halston brand fragrance and it becomes wildly successful. From there, the Halston brand launches furniture, cosmetics and accessories.

At the end of this decade, Studio 54 opens, Halston has an excessive number of projects and starts using cocaine regularly. This leads to the excess of the 80’s where Halston becomes a controlling perfectionist and his life starts to spiral out of control. The film explores the unraveling of his relationship with his new boss Carl Epstein, who disables the luxuries of the lifestyle the designer had become accustomed to living when he becomes fixated on the bottom line in the business. Subsequently to the Halston brand dwindling, the designer contracts HIV and spends the last part of the decade removed from the fashion world in solitude in California where he succumbed to AIDS.

This film was an amazing exploration of an artist who lived to create. When his work was devalued, he had nothing to live for anymore.Tcheng does Halston proud, honouring his life’s work in this very entertaining dramocumentary. 

Part 1: KO Sundance Film Festival 2019 + Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile >
Part 3: We Rise Up (Sundance 2019) >

Calgary Showtimes: Halston >


NOTE: The showtimes listed on CalgaryMovies.com come directly from the theatres' announced schedules, which are distributed to us on a weekly basis. All showtimes are subject to change without notice or recourse to CalgaryMovies.com.