Feb 19, 2018

[Movies] House of Z (2016) Review

I'm super loving Netflix's library of documentaries as they make for some really interesting random viewing on quieter nights at home. Movies are a little harder to pick at random since you don't want that time to get wasted on a possibly lousy one. But with documentaries your chances for someting decent or at least something informative are pretty high.

House of Z is a documentary about fashion designer Zac Posen, who we mainly know from his time on Project Runway, admittedly. It's clear that he has worked in fashion but I had never bothered to look into his professional history all that deeply. This documentary addressed that.

I was rather surprised to learn that his history is as colorful as it turns out to be, but then again the fashion industry can be pretty cutthroat at times. Zac Posen's story is a fascinating and detailed demonstration of this principle. And his participation in this documentary opened the doors to a lot of insights and some great photos from his childhood and other periods of his life.

Synopsis: House of Z is a documentary about the life of Zac Posen as directed by Sandy Chronopoulos. The story was written by Chronopoulos and Sherien Barsoum.

The whole documentary is structured around everyone's fascination with shining stars that burn brightly and fall spectacularly. And the life story of Zac Posen and his meteoric rise in the fashion world follows this pattern given his spectacular crash as well.

Like many other biographical documentaries, the story is told pretty much chronologically, starting with his childhood and moving through his lfe including how he got into the fashion industry. But the documentary does stress that a lot of this is about watching him fail and the feature does not waste time into following his career including his crashing and burning.

I guess the only reassurance is that we know that he has a career now given things like Project Runway, so something happens to help redeem him. And I guess that helps keeps things on track.

What I Liked: Chronopoulos obviously got some pretty deep access to Zac Posen, his family, and whatever family photos and videos they had as the archival materials selected for the feature were fantastic. There were a few that felt eerily too perfect for certain points that they wanted to make and you even wonder if it had somehow been staged, but then that's just how all-access documentaries tend to be.

It also helps that on its own, Zac Posen's life is indeed quite fascinating. We all have friends who have gone through some epic ups and downs and you suggest that they sell their story to TV. This felt like the case of him actually doing it to help advance his reputation and career somehow. And man, he's quite the looker too. I don't know what I didn't quite have that impression based on his more recent television appearances.

What Could Have Been Better: The story felt a little slanted in its approach to things, and thus it felt like it didn't go in as deep as it could have. While it did address the reasons for his fall, it also felt like it was staged to make sure he'd be a success by the end of things. Then again, that maybe more how we prefer stories of failure on some level as opposed to that of the underdog coming back on top.

The movie doesn't quite conclude greatly and the whole question of the signature dress bit was interesting but not exactly something that was really all that scary. And thus it felt a bit contrived. Or maybe I'm just reading too much into things. And I do wish that we heard more about his family after the dust had settled and what steps Zac had taken to smoothen things out, but on that note they left things a bit vague beyond a dinner scene at the end.

TL;DR: House of Z is on the whole a fascinating look into the life of Zac Posen and a celebration of his highs and lows. The nearly all-access aspect to things certainly gave the filmmakers a lot to work with but may have compromised their objectivity to a limited degree. Thus the feature gets 4 crazy creations of young Zac out of a possible 5.

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