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Becoming Karl Lagerfeld, biographical film, biography, review, biopic

Becoming Karl Lagerfeld (2024) 

Following hot on the heels on its' vastly superior Cristóbal Balenciaga, Disney’s Becoming Karl Lagerfeld takes one of the fashion world’s more polarising figures and turns him into a reserved dullard. In its depiction of the designer’s journey from prêt-à-porter mercenary to the House of Chanel, this limited series relegates its titular character to a bystander in his own story. Shaped by the actions of his companion rather than his own initiative, the result is a biopic that's not so much about becoming Karl Lagerfeld as being Jacques de Bascher.

The signs are there from the outset with the opening minutes being dedicated to Bascher’s pursuit of Lagerfeld, rather than to the fashion designer himself. When the focus does shift to Lagerfeld, he is portrayed as not only being somewhat passive in both his professional and personal life, but also as someone whose talents seem undeserving of the spotlight. A failed collaboration with Marlene Dietrich and an underwhelming response to his fashion show underscore this. Over the following episodes, each preceded by a title identifying a season and year, Lagerfeld slowly emerges from his preferred anonymity. Yet whatever transformation does occur appears to take place off-camera between episodes.

Also featured prominently in this series is fellow designer Yves Saint Laurent. Though his rivalry with Lagerfeld is established early, once again it is his relationship with Bascher that dominates his narrative. This passionate and ultimately destructive affair provides some of Becoming Karl Lagerfeld’s best moments, yet it barely acknowledges Laurent’s contribution to fashion. It is a flaw that permeates the series as a whole. Clashes between haute couture, ready-to-wear, the establishment and the new wave, represented by Thierry Mugler, are never fully explored.

Such is the perfunctory treatment afforded the world of fashion, that these icons of the industry may as well have been making sausages.

Daniel Brühl, Karl Lagerfeld, Jeanne Damas, Paloma Picasso, Arnaud Valois
Yves Saint Laurent, Sunnyi Melles, Marlene Dietrich, Paul Spera, Andy Warhol

No reference is made to Lagerfeld's contribution to film.

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