Recently I’ve enjoyed passing on filmic oddities that I’ve stumbled across so I thought I’d make more of a concerted effort to hunt such things down. All this week I’ll be showing documentary videos – some you may have seen, others hopefully not.
I was reminded of today’s subject the other day when I cycled past a gallery opening just in time to see Eva and Adele making their entrance. The duo bill themselves as a living work of art, a claim which few in the modern era can more justly brandish than the late, brilliant Leigh Bowery, the boy from Sunshine, Australia.
There’s such a surfeit of riches in Charles Atlas’s 2002 documentary The Legend of Leigh Bowery. Central to it all, of course, are Bowery’s mind-blowingly inventive costumes, the product of a world-class couturier with a clientele of one. Nightmarish, grotesque, obscene, operating so far outside the framework of costuming convention in their construction, intent and effect as to form some separate artform with – again – a single exponent.
The Salvation Army, The Fall, Gary Glitter, Boy George, Mr Pearl, Lucian Freud, terrifying nightclubs, even more terrifying daytime TV, the art of getting ready and the best manager Burger King never had: much of life is here. Best of all are the interviews with Bowery’s lovely, bewildered family, especially his father’s gift for understatement: “I think,” he says at one point, “Leigh was probably a little bit more complex than we knew.”