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Home » Culture and Criticism

Ultrasuede: In Search of Halston

Submitted by on April 16, 2013 – 2:29 PMOne Comment

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An odd documentary whose amateurishness gets the best of it in the end, Ultrasuede: In Search of Halston can't get its arms all the way around Roy Halston Prowick.

Director Whitney Smith returns a number of times to the concept, memorialized on the designer's Fashion-Avenue star, that "the '70s belonged to Halston," but Jackie O's pillbox belonged to Halston, too, and uniform design, and the high-society era of the Warhol Factory, and any one period of or angle on his life could support a feature-length doc. It should have, instead. This one tries to fit too much in, and doesn't know how.

As it is, despite wisely skipping the obligatory bucktooth-Midwestern-child section in favor of charmingly random interviews (Billy Joel is asked about the reference, in "Big Shot," to "your Halston dress"; Chris Makos cheerfully takes phone calls with the camera running, but gets relevant dish from the folks on the other end), Ultrasuede can't cover enough of the subject to feel satisfying. Several of the interviews don't really work, either — Pat Cleveland is still gorgeous but lends all the insight of a soap bubble.

Bob Colacello's Warhol memoir, Holy Terror, gives you an appetizing slice of Halston, that unflappably grand man who seemed to collect out-of-control girls, and it's thanks to that book that I understood who half the people in Ultrasuede were and why they were in it. I'd hoped the film would provide the rest of the meal. Repeated broody shots of Smith cruising the nighttime streets of Times Square in his Thunderbird don't qualify.

I'd love a good juicy book bio of Halston, if anyone can recommend one.

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  • Kitty says:

    I read the biography that Steven Gaines wrote, and it was just "okay". I haven't really found another one out there though. There are a couple of other books detailing Halston's life but they are primarily photography/coffee table books. Pretty to look at but not "juicy" in any way.

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