Showing Off

Haphazardly finding old repeats of mint documentary on BBC iPlayer (TV and radio) is one of my favourite things to do at the moment.  Under the less-frequented Film section, The British Guide to Showing Off popped up.  I didn’t catch it the first time round when it was released in 2011 but just as I’ve been writing a think piece for a magazine about the corporatisation of fashion, it felt like appropriate viewing.  One line courtesy of Andrew Logan, who’s the main subject of the documentary, lingered on in my head…

“The alternative has been beaten out of people…”

The British Guide to Showing Off documents the anarchic world of eccentric British artist Andrew Logan and his extraordinary Alternative Miss World Show, which has just notched its 13th edition this year.  Director Jes Penstock and producer Dorigen Hammond, followed Logan and his partner as they prepared to mount the 2009 show and interwoven throughout the film are anecdotes and footage from past Alternative Miss World shows dating back to 1972.  Longstanding friends and supporters like Grayson Perry, Sandra Rhodes and Brian Eno pop up with their own AMW tales.  Contestants and patrons have included Leigh Bowery, Stephen Jones, Derek Jarman, David Hockney and Divine.  Logan presides over this congregation of outsiders, often as a half man, half woman ringmaster as contestants go through the conventional daywear, swimwear and evening wear categories in costumes that defy any pageant convention.  The documentary indulges in the event’s doo-lally, camp as Christmas and irreverently British traits as animation and collages are used to present Logan’s archive imagery and film footage.  It’s the video equivalent of an overdecorated and saccharine cake with some madcap flavour combos going on.  In other words, perfect viewing for rose-tinted inspiration of how fun and irreverent the past was.  There’s a danger in overindulging in the zane of it all, but you finish watching, feeling like there is some truth to Logan’s comment about the alternative being beaten out of people today.

If you haven’t seen it, the film is available on indie film pay-per-view site We Are Colony for a mere £3.99 along with extra footage and stills and obviously on BBC iPlayer for free if you’re in the UK (or know how to do clever things with proxy servers…).  Go on.  It’s nearly Christmas.  Work is winding down and the escapism for an hour and a half is well worth it.


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