At first promising a noirish twist on the standard talking-head doc, ‘Halston’ gradually settles into a more conventional, warts-and-all perspective on the mono-monikered US fashion designer’s memorable life and career. That noir element comes in the shape of a framing device that has a fictional archivist (played by Tavi Gevinson) going through old tapes and documents to get to the bottom of the man’s life. It’s interspersed with interviews between her and Halston’s actual friends and accompanied by a gumshoe-style voice-over. Safe to say, it’s not exactly what you’d expect from a fashion doc.
Sure enough, the archivist’s irksome journey gradually gives way to more conventional devices, including talking-head interviews with famous figures like Liza Minnelli and filmmaker Joel Schumacher. Director Frédéric Tcheng (‘Dior and I’) corrals plenty of rich archival material into a vibrant picture of Halston’s life, with his wild nights at the iconic Manhattan club Studio 54 getting a lusty airing and access-all-areas glimpses of Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball showing the man in his element.
It’s a testament to the riches found in the interviews and historical footage that the half-hearted gumshoe gimmick is soon forgotten. By chronicling the career of this volatile and visionary designer through the filthy glamour of post-war New York, ‘Halston’ offers an engrossing look at a rich and rare American life. A passion for fashion is optional.