Dior and I Defines Authenticity
Dior and I released in 2014, and is currently available for streaming on Netflix
Frederic Tcheng’s solo directorial debut, Dior and I, is a (sort of) sequel to Christian Dior’s eponymous memoir (“Christian Dior and I”, 1956). It isn’t a persuasive exposé; it is pure and simple. It breaks stereotypes about the supposed drama in the fashion business, and instead, focuses on providing useful inside knowledge and privileged access to the Dior fashion house.
Offering interludes of judiciously-selected chronicles on Christian Dior from the memoir with passages narrated by Omar Berrada, Tcheng does a fine job of contrasting the Dior House from the 50’s with the modern day atelier. Tcheng spends a considerable portion of the film in the Dior atelier, focusing on the many hands that oversee every stitch and create a spectacular collection in two months’ time.
My “French isn’t perfect” either, but bonjour, Raf Simons! With a self-described “gigantic and sublime” legacy to face, the journey of Simons as the newly-minted creative director is real and riveting. Simons is famous for “modern minimalism” and the documentary brings out the minimalist in him. Scandals and gossip are not a part of this documentary, which is highly appreciable. The spotlight is on the intricate handwork and diligence, and how to create the perfect balance between art and commerce. Dior and Ifuses individual perspectives with collective teamwork, while emphasizing the human touch. Excitement, nervousness, anticipation, insecurities and vulnerabilities, are all emotional highs and lows that most individuals relate to. Showing terrific geniuses confront their feelings and face the pressure of working on a ticking-clock is what makes Dior and I a relatable, ergo intimate film.
The showmanship of the premières (head seamstresses), Florence and Monique, generate momentum for Dior and I, because of their contrasting personalities. Florence is effervescent and pleasant, while Monique is cautious and stern. Tcheng creates fleeting moments as he shows the two artisans overseeing the work of seamstresses and cutters, all persevering to serve Simons’ vision. The techno music is accompanied by a recurring, pulsating bass beat lends a sense of anxiousness, and the crisp camera angles show painstaking details and elements that make haute couture what it is. There is a particular moment that connects the past and present in an illuminating, poignant way: Simons visits Dior’s villa in Granville and decides to pay an homage to Christian Dior’s Flower Woman, resulting in five rooms consisting of a million fresh blooms for the Autumn/ Winter 2012 Couture Show.
Tcheng does not capture Simons’ emotions very well. This may vastly limit audiences because viewers will fail to connect with the man himself. Although there were many parallels drawn between the personalities of Raf Simons and Christian Dior, it seemed as though Tcheng lacked an interest in bringing out the personality of Simons through his direction. I expected to see a personal story behind Simons’ curiosity and confidence in the professional world. But if Simons is actually that reticent, shy and reluctant, then Dior and I does a fantastic job of revealing the reality of his personality.
It is the day of the collection debut that presents Simons in a new light: one that audiences can absolutely empathize with. Watching Simons fret when it is time to deal with the press, and run up the stairs of the Paris mansion 10 minutes before he was scheduled to, was intense and gripping. The nervousness reflects on Simons’ face and tears flow at the end of the show. Final word: Tcheng’s most significant achievement lies in his ability to capture authenticity in the “superficial” world.