Fair warning: some of you are going to hate me for recommending this film, and others are going to be mildly displeased, but hopefully most of you are going to watch it not as the filmmaker intended, but as I suggest. That’s because the film is about Halston, but it is not about Halston. If you filter out the nonsense and just pay attention to the archival footage and the interviews, you’ll make it through just fine.
The problem with Halston: In Search of Ultrasuede is hinted at in the title. Whitney Smith, the filmmaker and narrator, really wants this film to be about himself, and so he interjects his own “journey” into the Halston story. It’s a gimmick that just doesn’t work, partly because of his maddening insistence on altering his appearance in every scene. It is at first confusing, and ultimately distracting. All I can say is, “why?”
But I’ll say that Smith did a remarkable job of getting interviews with all the right people, or Beautiful People, as they would have been known as in the 1970s. The cast of characters is long and comprehensive with interviews with everyone from Ralph Rucci (who worked for Halston in the late 1970s) to Liza Minnelli to Billy Joel. What a treat it would be to see some of these interview sessions in their entirety.
Another plus is the wealth of vintage footage and photos. One really gets a feel for the late 70s/early 80s New York party scene. You might be amused at the selective memories of some of the interviewees, though, some claiming they didn’t see drugs and sex at Studio 54.
Currently streaming on Amazon and Netflix.
Image copyright Tribeca Films