UNZIPPED is a documentary by first time director Douglas Keeve.
It follows famous fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi as he attempts with
his Fall 1994 collection to redeem himself after several disappointing
years. In short, the movie is a hoot and a lot of fun. As a
documentarian, Keeve has a lot to learn. The naturally hilarious
antics of Mizrahi save the movie no matter how amateurish the
One of the delights of the show is that we get to see many clips
of old movies (NANOOK OF THE NORTH, THE CALL OF THE WILD, THE RED
SHOES, and WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?) and TV shows (THE MARY
TYLER MOORE SHOW and others). Besides quoting the shows verbatim,
Mizrahi designs his collections based on some of them.
The movie is full of uproarious dialog. As one example, after
watching NANOOK OF THE NORTH on TV, Mizrahi decides to model his 1994
Fall collection after the movie, but there is a big problem. He muses
that "All I want to do is fur pants, but I know that if do them, I will
be stoned off of Fifth Avenue."
Mizrahi's mannerism are as outlandish as his speech. When he
mimics Eartha Kitt for whom he is designing clothes, the audience is in
stitches. After seeing her house, he tells his dinner friends that he
would "kill for a swatch of the wallpaper in her bathroom."
Watching the preparation for the fashion show we get to see the
models interviewing for positions. My favorite is a woman who looks
like a recent concentration camp survivor, who walks a storm trooper,
and who promises Mizrahi that her almost totally shaved head will be
completely shaved for the show. I don't think he hired her, but it is
The movie is full of the glitterati (Eartha Kitt, Cindy Crawford,
Richard Geer, Liza Minnelli, Sandra Bernhard, etc.). Cindy Crawford
has one of the better lines. When the cameraman is zooming in on her,
she tells him, "You are a little too close. My pores are not that
Mainly what works in the show is the dialog and the mannerisms,
but there is one special scene that has neither. When he gets bad
news, Mizrahi is shown walking slowly in blowing, dark, dirty, gray
snow in New York City. The ugly snow is a apt metaphor for his
emotions and the cinematography captures it perfectly.
His 1994 Fall collection is as outlandish as its designer.
Moreover, to provoke and involve fashion critics, he decides to use a
scrim like they do at the ballet. He asks his models if they would
mind changing clothes behind the scrim so that the audience could see
them. He assures them that this will be okay since they will have
their underwear on. Most models agree, but some reject the proposal.
When it comes time for the show, they appear to all go along anyway.
Coming back to the poor quality of the documentary, it is as much
of a mess as is Mizrahi's hair. Just as we learn in the movie, that
Mizrahi has a stylist that works hard to give him just the right messy
look, so it is clear that Keeve likes having a movie that makes you
feel sure that you could do better with your own camcorder.
The cinematography by Ellen Kuras is almost a parody of bad film
making. The film stock appears to be a speed of ASA one million as the
grain is about the size of silver dollars. The editor (Paula Heredia)
seems proud that she leaves in scenes that are of such poor quality
that if you shot them, you would immediately erase the tape. Scenes
start out of focus and then we get to watch as the camera operator
moves the lenses back and forth until it is finally in focus. Many
scenes are so white, they may be scenes of polar bears in Siberia for
all I know. Sometimes these scenes then go to total black as the
operator decides to adjust the iris. I am sure Kuras shot tons of film
and most of it has to be better than what we are shown. Although most
of the film is in black and white, the few color scenes are in perfect
focus and well lit. Sometimes the camera is dropped, but hey, why not
show these mistakes to the audience too. Suffice it to say that the
filming and the editing are too cute for words. I kept wanting to
scream while watching it.
UNZIPPED reminds me of the wonderful British TV show, THE HOUSE OF
ELLIOT. They are both about fashion designers who are working
extremely hard to be a success and both are high energy shows.
Finally, the music in UNZIPPED, especially during the runway scenes of
the fashion show, is great and full of energy. You want to go see one
of these shows yourself and soon.
UNZIPPED flies by at 1:13. It is not rated, but would probably be
PG-13 for a little profanity and models in their underwear. Any
teenager could see it with no problems. If you feel like a fun show
where you can just have a good time, I recommend UNZIPPED to you, and I
award it ** 1/2.
Copyright © 1995 Steve Rhodes