One startling truth jumps from the screen: for Mizrahi, women are merely creatures on which to hang his designs, showpieces for his personal aesthetic. They can make his cloth flow and his cuts swing.

UNZIPPED

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


"Unzipped" is a zoom lens look at the intense international subculture of the fashion world. A few years back, Jennie Livingston's "Paris is Burning" examined the highly stylized version of runway fashion modeling practiced in New York's transvestite world. She caught a culture powered by the same desperate need for recognition that oozes from the pores of "Unzipped."

Douglas Keeve follows Isaac Mizrahi from the failure of one of his collections to the triumph of the next. Mr. Mizrahi's creative agonies take place in a world of high tension egos in razor-sharp competition. What flows from Mizrahi's head to the design table wins or loses the game.

He had better be half a step ahead of the fashion climate of the moment, offering exactly what the cognoscenti don't know they want until they see it walk down his runway. He has to win the applause, in a second, of the power players, and everyone else will follow. His success is catnip to the supermodels, to the performers who wear his designs, and to the superstrata of the fashion media. His success will feed them all.

Absorbed by Loretta Young in "The Call of the Wild," Mizrahi dreams of a fur jumpsuit for walking the dog. Does anyone care about a fur jumpsuit? Is a megabuck dress an obscenity in a hungry world? But that's not fair. The passions and dreams of designers are easy targets, and if we play that game, we have to argue the worth of stockbrokers, or cigarette makers, or film critics. Fashion is a permanent subculture, and this documentary shows the delicacy and vulnerability of its interlocking parts.

One startling truth jumps from the screen: for Mizrahi, women are merely creatures on which to hang his designs, showpieces for his personal aesthetic. They can make his cloth flow and his cuts swing. But most of the glitz shrivels in the real world. It takes three people to remove the hiplength boots from the long limbs of a model--one to hold her down, two to pull.

The people who inhabit this world have designed themselves just as surely as the clothes that are their obsession. Polly Allen Mellen, who has moved successfully in the top tier of the fashion magazine pyramid for years, barks her judgments and wears a couture outfit of gestures, tones, and attitudes that has made her a respected, first rate eccentric. She is her own creation.

These people seem charmed by their world, by each other and by themselves. If their passion is frivolous, it is full of the imagination and inspiration that put the zing in Mizrahi's success. This collection was his big poker hand, and he won the pot, but the film itself has a tough time transcending the self-absorption of its subjects. Precious and self-conscious, it wears thin very fast. Perhaps it is, after all, an obscenity in a hungry world.


Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 492
Studio : Miramax
Rating : R
Running Time: 1h16m


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