Catwalk

Friday May 3, 1996

     In following supermodel Christy Turlington for three hectic weeks of the spring collections in Milan, Paris and New York, documentarian Robert Leacock, in his amusing, affectionate documentary "Catwalk," provides us a take on the world of high fashion that challenges widely held stereotypes about behavior dictated by ego, temperament and competition. Like "Unzipped," which chronicled Isaac Mizrahi assembling a collection through its unveiling, "Catwalk" shows how in the crunch people can behave like pros.
     Indeed, the subject of "Catwalk" is not glamour but professionalism, to which the film is a virtual paean. Although we must be ever mindful that filmmakers possess an infinite capacity for selectivity, Leacock suggests convincingly that behind the scenes at major fashion shows everyone is a team player dedicated to putting on the best presentation possible. The atmosphere is upbeat, humorous and good-natured with the models and designers and their aides treating one another with respect for themselves and one another. Nary is heard a discouraging word, except for the occasional potshot at members of the fashion press.
     The tall, regal Turlington comes across as being as disciplined as she is beautiful, a savvy, self-possessed and hard-working woman. You sense that she and other models, such as Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss, are smart enough to be grateful for their good fortune to be blessed with great looks and to realize also that their celebrity may be short-lived. The designers themselves reveal considerable grace under pressure as they at last face the verdict on their latest creations. Among the designers featured, besides Galliano and Mizrahi, are Azzedine Alaia,, Giorgio Armani, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Karl Lagerfeld and Valentino.
     Turlington, who cherishes moments of privacy and independence, says that she's not sorry that at the moment there's no romance in her life. "I travel too much, it's not fair," she says. "Catwalk" is not intended as an in-depth portrait of Turlington, who instead serves as a focal point and a narrative thread for the film. Even so, she emerges as an intelligent, thoroughly likable woman with a warm, unpretentious personality and a radiant smile. And, yes, she is breathtakingly, irresistibly gorgeous, perhaps even more so after she's taken off her makeup.
     With the clothes ranging from Mizrahi's sensible ensembles to John Galliano's fantasy ball gowns appropriate for Versailles when the Bourbons reigned, "Catwalk" demonstrates how Turlington and other equally famous models are able to show off to advantage an amazingly wide range of clothing styles.
     "Unzipped" reminded us that top-drawer designers must also be gamblers and generated considerable suspense as to whether Mizrahi's comeback-collection of a few seasons back would be a success. "Catwalk," however, is content to take us into the glittery, exciting world of high-fashion modeling. Inevitably it's not going to be as substantial as "Unzipped" but it certainly brings its world dazzlingly, intoxicatingly alive, an effect immeasurably heightened by Malcolm McLaren's effervescent score.


Catwalk, 1996. Unrated. An Arrow release. Director Robert Leacock. Co-director-editor Milton Moses Ginsberg. Producer Sug Villa. Executive producers Daniel Wolf, Donald Rosenfield. Fashion producer Edie Locke. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes.

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