Institute of Contemporary Arts

The Gospel According To André, Dir. Kate Novack, USA, 2018, 93 mins, English
According to the fashion icon and former Vogue editor André Leon Talley, ‘You can be aristocratic without having been born into an aristocratic family.’ Fabulous looks and airs and graces, as divorced from discriminatory barriers, are what the subject of this film has long been working to promote – both personally in his own eye-catching attire and way of carrying himself through the world, and through his flamboyant catwalk and magazine page interventions.
 
Dividing her film into four chapters in reference to the four gospels, director Kate Novack explores the bearing of different time periods and locations on Talley’s life. Having grown up in the US South during Jim Crow era racial segregation, Talley’s passage into the fashion hubs of 1970s New York and particularly 1990s Paris was by no means easy, as one of of the only openly gay black men in a predominantly white industry. Anna Wintour, Valentino, Whoopi Goldberg and Will.i.am are among the fashion and culture giants who come to praise his contribution.
 
From the producers of The First Monday in May (2016) and Page One: Inside The New York Times (2011), this documentary is rooted in rigorous research: as part of her preparation, Novack approached Brown University for a copy of Talley’s master’s thesis on nineteenth-century French poet Charles Baudelaire. The Emmy-nominated director also makes compelling use of archival footage, illustrating the influence on André of his elegant grandmother and of his upbringing through the Black Church.
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