Frédéric Tcheng’s documentary Halston tells a story which seems strangely familiar even if you’ve never heard of fashion designer Roy Halston Frowick, and not just because this isn’t the first documentary about him. It hits many beats we’ve seen as recently as the docudrama Mapplethorpe: gay man in the 1970s finds his professional niche and becomes successful beyond his dreams, gets into heavy drugs and Studio 54, makes questionable business decisions, and passes away from AIDS during the first Bush administration.
As documentaries set in the upper-crust New York of the Bergdorf’s Cinematic Universe go — such as Always at the Carlyle, The First Monday in May, and Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s — Halston is a bit more accessible, since his work was briefly if controversially available to the rabble when he designed clothes for JC Penney in the 1980s. To its credit, Halston doesn’t get into his never-not-boring childhood until the end, although a framing device featuring Tavi Gevinson as a fictional young archivist digging into Halston’s life doesn’t really pay off. But there’s plenty of tasty research porn, including a downright erotic sequence of the Fashion Institute of Technology’s mobile shelving system’s gearwheels being turned. Fashions come and go, but the opening of archives will never not be sexy.
Not rated. Opens Friday at the Opera Plaza Cinema.