Glenn here. Each Tuesday we bring you reviews and features on documentaries from theatres, festivals, and on demand.
Gillian Armstrong is nearly as prolific as a documentarian as she is a dramatic filmmaker. While the likes of her “Seven Years On” series (an Australian 7 Up), her Bob Dylan concert doc Hard to Handle, or the true crime murder mystery of an interior design queen in Unfolding Florence aren’t as well-known as her collaborations with Judy Davis, Cate Blanchett, Mel Gibson, and Winona Ryder, they are eclectic and passionate works nonetheless. As she said in her interview with Jose last year at Toronto, “there’s a different art to making documentaries” and unlike many other directors who split their time between mediums, her documentaries do feel distinctly unique from her other work and yet equally essential.
Her latest non-fiction work is Women He’s Undressed, a peek behind the velvet curtain at Orry-Kelly, a costume designer from Hollywood’s golden age. Armstrong posits that he is a virtual unknown – a claim a deliciously acidic Ann Roth, one of the doc’s more entertaining talking heads, doesn’t have a bar of – including in his home country of Australia. What we do know is that he was gay, secretly dated Cary Grant, Bette Davis was fiercely loyal to him, and that he had a hand in some the greatest films of all time from Casablanca to 42nd Street, An American in Paris to The Letter and many more. You don’t win three Academy Awards without being a little bit special!