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MOVIES New documentary visits 'House of Cardin'
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times
2020-09-02

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It took a queer eye to bring the new documentary House of Cardin to life.

Husbands and business partners Todd Hughes and P. David Ebersole have directed a history of designer Pierre Cardin. Viewers of the doc may learn all kinds of facts about the icon known for unisex fashions, such as him being Italian ( not French ) and the multitude of items the Cardin brand expanded to.

Recently, House of Cardin was screened at Outfest virtually and premiered in the past at the Venice Film Festival, where it was nominated for the Queer Lion Award. It was also nominated for the Gold Q-Hugo Award at the Chicago International Film Festival and won the Lifetime Achievement, Best Fashion Feature Film and Best Director of a Feature Fashion Film awards at the Cinemoi Cinefashion Film Awards.

Ebersole started as a child actor, then studied film at New York University. He directed television shows and co-produced HBO's Stranger Inside. He directed and edited his first documentary, which was about Patty Schemel, the lesbian drummer from the band Hole. He also directed, with Hughes, the Lifetime television documentary called Dear Mom, Love Cher, which was about Georgia Holt, Cher's mother.

Hughes has been married to Ebersole since 2008. He directed House of Cardin with his partner and has produced many other features, such as David's Friend and the upcoming My Name is Lopez.

Windy City Times: I read that you were both influenced by Cardin's furniture to make this documentary. Is that correct?

Todd Hughes: Yes; we were decorating our house and we found this Pierre Cardin coffee table for the center space, which is very unique.

WCT: Do you think Cardin is bisexual or gay?

TH: I think he is bisexual. He has only had one big relationship with a female that we know of, which was Jeanne Moreau. The true love of his life was Andre Oliver.

P. David Ebersole: I think he identifies as gay. He comes from a certain era where one didn't need to necessarily announce it and didn't need to claim himself to one way or the other.

I love what Jean Paul Gaultier says in the film about Cardin not being in the closet or hiding anything. He is who he is and was a brand selling himself, just not his private life, back then. These days we are so used to knowing everything about everyone.

WCT: Were there any diva moments from Naomi Campbell while filming?

TH: None, whatsoever. It was surreal, though. She was at the museum and I remember looking at my watch and it was two o'clock on the dot. I looked up and there was this beautiful face walking towards me with a big smile. She was right on time and everyone was surprised.

PDE: She was lovely and has a huge admiration for Mr. Cardin. She has praise in general and a lot of respect for him. She was fun, funny and nice to work with. I'm sorry to disappoint!

TH:We got so comfortable with her that we asked to take a picture with our cellphones. I normally wouldn't go there, but I think she was okay with it.

WCT: I liked seeing her and Sharon Stone wear Cardin's fashions during the interviews.

PDE: The dress that Naomi wore came off the mannequin at the museum and went right on her. That 1966 dress fit her perfectly.

TH:Sharon Stone knew exactly what to do with that dress she wore. She was not precious. She pulled it and twisted it. We thought she was great.

WCT: Were there any scenes that wound up on the cutting-room floor of House of Cardin that you had wished otherwise?

PDE: All sorts of things. Usually with DVDs you don't get to do extras, but with this one we are making a collector's edition for Cardin. We have got a bunch of interview outtakes and amazing stories from Cardin about his own life. Jean-Michel Jarre had some big thoughts about him and we didn't find a way to put them in the movie. It is really nice that people will be able to hear what he had to say. Sharon Stone had all sorts of additional stories.

There are huge sequences that we weren't able to put in the movie. One was all about Cardin's record label, which was one of things that got us obsessed about him. You see some of the records in the montages, but we didn't have time to discuss it.

TH: It was very hard to choose what stayed and what went. We couldn't really catalogue his work. It's just too comprehensive. We tried to focus on the man. If people become interested there are books about him and a magnificent show at the Brooklyn Museum last year that I wish people could leave the movie and walk into. They could see the clothes and feel the textures. It really is breathtaking. There really is so much to his work!

WCT: What would you like LGBTQ audiences to take away from House of Cardin?

TH: Cardin is one of us, and that gay people are amazing. He came to Paris in 1945 unafraid. He worked with gays and hired them. He hired and empowered women. He built his brand with people from all over the world, different colors and different languages.

I think there's a real sense of pride just seeing gay people thinking outside of the box and being so creative. He gave great respect to the underdogs and is really a gay hero. He's someone to look up to.

PDE: He is full of self-expression. Cardin was one of the first to make male fashion not just about suits. Men could finally feel sexy. Whether someone was trying to appeal to a man or a woman, they were presenting themselves as being sexy.

PDE: He continues and lives life…

WCT: What drew you both to the story of Hit So Hard [about Schemel]?

PDE: Patty Schemel was a neighbor of ours in Silver Lake, Los Angeles, who came over with a box of video tapes that she had shot when she had a video camera on tour with Hole.

She lived with Courtney Love so had all of this footage of Kurt Cobain and the baby. She just wanted to preserve it or sell it. Patty had a great personal story that she wanted to tell and just wanted someone she could trust.

TH: We had never made a documentary together before. We had been writers together, but had always made our own films. It was a new experience.

As luck would have it, a gay man's dream happened and Cher saw Hit So Hard in her Malibu mansion and thought it was good. Working with her mother was a fabulous experience.

PDE: Cher said, "That Courtney is batshit-crazy!"

WCT: What is one thing you learned about Cher with that documentary?

TH: Like Pierre Cardin, the most famous people are also the nicest. They were both very down-to-earth. There was no attitude.

PDE: I was amazed at someone of Cher's stature didn't demand green M&M's or tell everyone to not look her in the eye. She and her house were an open book to us. She would look at us when we talked. That should be a normal, human thing to do. We expect celebrities of that level to keep us at a distance. She didn't do that.

TH: When we went to her house the first time, which was surreal, her rep and assistants were all so nice. It starts at the top. Cher likes gay guys, but she's a girl's girl and her team are all women.

WCT: Your next project is about the singer Trini Lopez?

PDE: Yes, he is one of the first Latin rock stars. We had grown to be very close to him and we were finishing the movie. Yesterday, he passed away from COVID complications. We knew he was sick and had an operation, but when he got COVID we were very worried about him. Yesterday about five o'clock in the morning we found out he had passed away.

We are now going to be able to show people what was so incredible about that man. He was generous, lovely, talented, charismatic and fun to get to know.

With Cardin, one of the great joys was getting the movie situated so he could watch the world premiere with us in Venice. We were just about to show Trini the movie when he started to get sick. He saw sequences, but didn't see his life all put together in documentary form. This is sad at the moment, but we are glad it is done.

TH: The story of an illegal, Mexican immigrant, who was born in Dallas and grew up to be an American institution is a very important story right now.

WCT: Was Trini gay?

PDE: No. He had an appearance on Johnny Carson where he said he never got married because he was too busy dating.

TH: We are gay, of course. All of our films have some LGBT content, but with the Trini story we don't have any. We were executive producers of Room 237. There was no gay content in The Shining, but in the movie Jack Nicholson was reading a Playgirl magazine. There is a whole segment on it in the film.

WCT: If you could pick any subject, who would you want to document in the future?

PDE: There is one we have been thinking about for a long time. We are close friends with Mary Woronov, who is an Andy Warhol superstar. We have an idea called The Sixteenth Minute about Andy Warhol stars that are still alive, so Mary, of course, Viva and Joe Dallesandro, among others, would be put together.

TH: Someone already did a Grace Jones documentary, but we would like Debbie Harry or Nancy Sinatra.

House of Cardin will debut On-Demand on Tuesday, Sept. 15, to coincide with New York Fashion Week.


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