James Crump’s latest documentary explores the coterie of artists, models and writers who formed around the pioneering fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez. A passionate and romantic figure, Lopez makes for a dynamic subject in a film sadly lacking in narrative excitement.
Working alongside his creative partner, Juan Eugene Ramos, Lopez brought an energetic, passionate approach to fashion which suited the rapidly shifting culture of 1970’s New York and Paris. Their illustrations broke new ground at a time when the fashion world was opening up to outsider influences and moving further away from the haute couture of the post-war decades. This pioneering work is thoroughly examined in new film Antonio Lopez 1970: Sex, Fashion & Disco: a colourful documentary which revels in the eye candy of Lopez’s bright, expressive drawings along with an abundance of fashion photography and personal shots from the nightclubs, studios and gatherings where he socialised and found inspiration.
Crump brings his skill as an art historian to the film, allowing his interviewees to discuss Lopez’s work in loving depth. The illustrator is depicted as a force of nature, someone bursting with creative energy (as well as sexual exuberance), and the documentary luxuriates in anecdotes shared by friends and collaborators such as Jessica Lange, Patti D’Arbanville and Pat Cleveland. Watching the film, one gets a thorough sense of who Lopez was and what fired his artistic imagination. Its thoroughness, however, doesn’t quite paper over some of the cracks.
Since Lopez became successful very early in his life, there’s little in the way of progress to his story. He was born talented, that talent was recognised very quickly, and so the film is largely a ninety minute exercise in praise and fondness from friends and fellow artists. There’s also precious little footage of Lopez himself in the documentary (although plenty of still photographs), and this means that – as exciting and vibrant a subject as he is – it begins to feel very repetitive. It’s an enjoyable but static viewing experience, where even the tales of wild parties, disco dancing and sex become worn out through overuse.
Antonio Lopez 1970: Sex, Fashion & Disco is now in cinemas and on iTunes. dogwoof.com/antoniolopez