The art of beauty...
The art of beauty... Larger Than Life: The Kevyn Aucoin Story

Fashion documentaries existed before 1995's Unzipped, Douglas Keeve's fizzy profile of fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi, but that's the point at which they exploded in popularity. At this year’s SIFF, there were documentaries about Alexander McQueen, Zandra Rhodes, and Vivienne Westwood. The difference with Larger Than Life, a profile of Kevyn Aucoin, is that documentaries about makeup designers are fewer and far between.

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Much like his pal Mizrahi, Aucoin picked sides early on. By the age of 11, he set out to build his life around women. While growing up in Louisiana, he collected Barbra Streisand ephemera and drew pictures of Diana Ross and other stylish icons. His adoptive father, a baseball coach, wasn't happy about it. Nor were his teachers, his classmates—even his brother, who broke his Barbra records (what a jerk). Everyone assumed he was gay, and they were right. It didn't deter him from dating boys and making up every female face he could find. After moving to New York in the 1980s, he worked on porn shoots and used his connections to segue to high fashion. Paulina Porizkova and other top models praise his transformative talents, while collaborators cite his control freak tendencies.

If Unzipped became a hit by appealing to filmgoers who don't normally embrace fashion films, makeup artist Tiffany Bartok's directorial debut aims for dedicated followers of fashion (though it also includes recording artists, like Tori Amos and Cher). I enjoyed the glamour, the dish, and the recognition for an art so omnipresent on magazine covers and billboards that it's easy to take for granted, and yet Aucoin wielded paints and powders in an era not yet overtaken by Botox and the other technical marvels of our quick-fix age, making it as much an elegy for a man who isn't around any longer as an elegy for a world that no longer exists.

Larger Than Life screens at Northwest Film Forum July 11-15. For more Seattle screenings coming up this weekend and next week, visit the Stranger's Movie Times page.