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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Not Poofy--Just Curved
by Donald Levit

Chacun à son gout. There is a demand for everything under the sun, so fashionistas -- like baristas, fake Spanish -- and wannabes will cotton to director-writer-producer Frédéric Tcheng’s first solo feature, Dior and I. The fashion of this world passeth away, but non-fashion-mongers can also watch for a few frames each of famous faces.

Most, however, will find the hour-and-a-half Tribeca Film Festival 2014 première as shallow as the world it depicts with much-precedented “unprecedented access.” “Stepped into [Christian Dior’s] footsteps”-- surely somewhat clammy fifty-seven years after the death of that maître of haute couture -- non-francophone Raf Simons is named the sacred maison’s surprising new artistic, or creative, director.

“Surprising,” for the Belgian with a reputation as a minimalist was coming in from his own right-off-the-rack menswear line, sans high fashion or women’s wear experience. Casual in open-collared shirts, crewnecks, even shorts, he is, moreover, shy of publicity, as reinforced during his baptism-of-fire first collection show in an expensively rehabbed, flowered and scented townhouse. This is the world that “worships Fashion [where] the head monkey in Paris puts on a traveler’s cap, and all the monkeys in America do the same.”

He is fortunate in that his lively, handsome accompanying assistant Pieter Mulier is the opposite, outgoing, charming and French fluent. Most of the very longtime workers in the original building picked out and planned by the founder himself -- whose “spirit” still paces the place at night -- speak French, though a drip of humor intrudes when an excitable Italian-only speaker is translated and then translated back to.

With music that might equally lead up a creaky staircase in a spooky-house movie, this one would build suspense as Raf has no more than a scant eight weeks to feel out the situation and staff, impress onto them his personality and methods, organize and materialize his vision and, jacket- and tie-less in black, smile at flashbulbs for the celebrity fancy society and fancy catwalk show.

Bertrand Bonello toyed with milieu in Saint Laurent at the same time that in Yves Saint Laurent Jalil Lespert fact-fictionalized from a lover-business partner’s perspective, both done ten years after David Teboul documented that same rival designer in 2004 Yves St. Laurent: His Life and Times. The three films generate some interest by delving into character. lts title a slightest variation on a memoir written by Dior less than twelve months before his sudden fatal heart attack, Dior and I lacks that, or any, subsurface. This may be because Simons is himself exceptionally guarded or reserved or perhaps because he is in fact depth-less, neither a disgrace nor a flaw but likely the state of most of humanity.

Insistent parallels are drawn between the founder of the house that bears his iconic name and the present-day subject of this film. Over archival footage, Omar Berrada’s voicing the former’s words is meant to illustrate some supposed almost uncanny resemblance-relationship between the two men. This pseudo-Hawthornesque angle is further sought in the newcomer’s visit to the master’s childhood Normandy home fronting the Channel.

The atelier premières (workshop heads) and subordinates are more interesting than couturier (fashion designer) Raf, while couture terms tossed about are Greek to the uninitiated and uninterested. If one absolutely must ogle designs of unwearable unaffordable garments, try the Anne Fontaine Coco Before Chanel.

(Released by The Orchard; not rated by MPAA.)

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