The Gospel According to André: Unwavering fabulousness

Review: Appropriately ostentatious tribute to André Leon Talley, Vogue’s ex-editor-at-large

The Gospel According to André

Film Title: THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ANDRÉ

Director: Kate Novack

Starring: André Leon Talley, Anna Wintour, Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs, Diane von Furstenberg, Whoopi Goldberg, Valentino, Manolo Blahnik, Maureen Dowd, Fran Lebowitz, Eboni Marshall Turman, Will.i.am

Genre: Documentary

Running Time: 94 min

Thu, Oct 4, 2018, 05:00

   

The gang is all here for this appropriately ostentatious tribute to André Leon Talley, the former editor-at-large of Vogue or, as Will.i.am helpfully puts it “the Nelson Mandela of fashion”. That’s not quite right.

As this exuberant, hyper-articulate Talley explains: “I don’t live for fashion, I live for beauty and style.” Working with cinematographer Bryan Sarkinen and a wealth of gorgeous archive footage, Kate Novack’s directorial debut (she previously produced Page One: Inside the New York Times) is big on beauty and style.

Talley himself is a fascinating Gatsby-ish confection, a tall, imposing African-American who grew up under Jim Crow in North Carolina, only to land in Brown University with a scholarship.

His first words to a lifelong chum he met on campus? “How many pieces of Louis Vuitton luggage do you own? You’re going to need them to sail on the QEII.” No wonder fashion editor Diana Vreeland hired him as an assistant. He would later work as the receptionist at Andy Warhol’s Factory before joining Vogue.

Towards the end of the film, Talley recalls some of the racial slurs he heard in Paris during the 1980s and wonders what his grandmother, who worked as a maid, would have thought of Michelle Obama on the cover of Vogue. Generally, however, Gospel is happy to bask in its subject’s unwavering fabulousness.

Talley makes for fantastic company. He may have become a French scholar because he was a Julia Child fan, but unlike many of his peers, the earnest, larger-than-life Talley never sounds pretentious even when he’s talking about a shoot he styled featuring Cindy Crawford in a black bathing suit and widow’s veil, as inspired by Jackie Kennedy, the films of Luchino Visconti, and Empress Sisi of Austria.

Tellingly, as Donald Trump is sworn into office, Talley live-blogs from a room of political correspondents including Maureen O’Dowd. The gang banter and quip while he looks genuinely distraught. But he just can’t bring himself to hate Melania’s powder-blue inaugural Ralph Lauren suit.