We’ve seen a barrage of fashion docs in the past couple years, some great (Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel), some overrated (L’Amour Fou), others simply misguided (Ultrasuede: In Search of Halston). Now comes the shallowest of them all, Varon Bonicos’s A Man’s Story, which follows British designer and dandy extraordinaire Ozwald Boateng, from 1998 to today, in the most reality show-esque manner imaginable. This would make sense, as Bonicos teamed up in 2006 with Boateng for a full-fledged reality show, House of Boateng, and at times A Man’s Story feels like a best-of reel from what could have been the show’s first season. From final fittings to hissy fits, we’re told the filmmaker has been granted access to “all areas” of Boateng’s life. We see his home videos, runway shows, fittings, him relaxing in his lavish Jacuzzi the day of his first Givenchy show, gushing over articles in the press about himself, receiving the Order of the British Empire from the Queen, and finding out about his partner’s love affair via a compromising text message (I’m sure you can relate). All of that is intercut with Boateng speaking directly to the camera, that typical reality-show trope, trying to add some meaning to what may otherwise seem like an inconsequential sequence of self-absorbed shots.
Boateng’s creations are as remarkable as the man himself, a six-foot-four perfectly chiseled sculpture of sorts with impeccable posture and a tendency to boss people around over the phone in his hotel bathrobes. His collections can be highly conceptual and visually arresting affairs that often veer toward the hyper-chromatic, the texture working with the hues to make the fabrics look alive, like extensions of the body. His creative process, and its execution, is more interesting than the story of his life, yet that’s all the film has to offer: a petty and hagiographic obsession with glazing Boateng with all the celebrity aesthetics the camera can muster, instead of simply showing the work. A Man’s Story does a major disservice to an artiste of fashion with a pretty amazing and prolific oeuvre by reducing him to a Bravo-like personality—a personality whose pettiness Boateng’s work, though perhaps not his ego, clearly exceeds.