The allure of a captivating documentary goes beyond the story itself. It allows us to be a voyeur, giving us a glimpse into a life that is remarkable, inspiring or simply different to our own. These five examples of the genre fuse style, substance and travel – some of our most enduring inspirations.
Fashion designer Alexander McQueen established himself as a rare talent early in his career, and his groundbreaking designs, rigorous tailoring skills and flair for theatrics set him apart until his death in 2010. This documentary pieces together archival footage and interviews with friends and colleagues to follow his career from baby-faced graduate to the Paris couture. It’s a visual feast that’s worth watching for McQueen’s incredible catwalk shows alone.
To burn while watching: Persian Rose
As Vogue wrote in a recent article on McQueen: “In the sprawling English garden of Alexander McQueen, no flower carries as much weight as the rose.”
Joan Didion: The Centre Will Not Hold
Her most famous essay – Slouching Towards Bethlehem – was published in 1967, but our collective fascination with writer Joan Didion has shown no signs of waning. In her work, she walks a tightrope between the detached view of the journalist and the intimate revelations of a memoirist. In her personal life, “she’s always been painted as this mystic, gloomy figure,” her nephew, Griffin Dunne, has said. So it’s no wonder this documentary – made by Dunne who could draw on his close relationship with his aunt – has been so keenly enjoyed.
To burn while watching: No.352 Leather & Cedar
The sweet, spicy scent mixed with rich notes of leather are a perfect complement to Didion’s bohemian world.
The Gospel According to André
Legendary fashion editor André Leon Talley is no stranger to headlines – his newly written memoir, The Chiffon Trenches, dishes the dirt on his many decades spent at American Vogue and is required reading for anyone with an interest in fashion or magazines. This documentary precedes all that, chronicling his trajectory from a childhood in the American South to the upper echelons of fashion journalism. Talley depicts himself as a glamorous bon vivant, but his hard work, talent and sheer tenacity are all immediately apparent.
To burn while watching: Arabian Oud
Although it was made only a few years ago, The Gospel… feels like the fascinating product of a very different time and place.
Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words
First released in 2015 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Bergman’s birth, this intimate documentary captures all the beauty and dignity of one of Europe’s most striking stars of the screen. True to its name, it combines passages from Bergman’s own diaries with archival photographs and even old film footage shot by Bergman herself to show details of her family and professional life. The Swedish version is narrated by actor Alicia Vikander.
To burn while watching: La Primavera
Of Bergman’s three marriages, it’s her relationship with second husband, Italian director Roberto Rossellini, that’s best known.
The Endless Summer
Since its release in 1965, this cinematic classic has inspired generations of surfers to hit the road and travel the globe in search of the perfect wave. Filmmaker Bruce Brown famously followed two US surfers to Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti and Hawaii, capturing their adventure with the passionate eye of a fellow surfer. The grassroots production values only add to the charm and amplify the awe-inspiring footage of the ocean at its most powerful.
To burn while watching: Halcyon House X LUMIRA
The mid-north coast is one of Australia’s own surfing meccas, and this is our homage to its particular brand of coastal charm.