There should be a trigger warning for documentaries that incorporate footage from the 2016 presidential election. As I was watching Kate Novack's The Gospel According to André, a thoughtful meditation on the life and career of fashion guru André Leon Talley, I realized that the present-day threads of its story would be following the election via Talley's obsession with 24-hour news. And, oh, what an initial disappointment that revelation was. But the longer I considered the undertones of race and class throughout the documentary, the more I understood that electoral story structure only makes more urgent the struggles Talley keeps private: his experience as a queer, black, Southern working-class man who became one of the most revered haute-couture editors in the business.
Novack often fills up the screen with archival videos and photographs of striking fashions adorned on women who strut and saunter down runways. This archival footage is accompanied by commentary from Talley. In both the archives and in Novack's footage, Talley appears so fully himself in every one of his garishly fascinating caftans that it's difficult not to admire him or the endless knowledge of history and design (specifically Russian) he can spout from on cue. But Novack's film is about more than fashion. When election day rolls around, Novack catches him at a moment when he's too overcome by emotion to maintain his composed facade. The Talley of before the election presents himself as a man who believes anything is possible if you swallow your anger, work hard enough and sacrifice all -- especially your chance at love -- and the Talley of after seems to worry that much of that progress has proved an illusion.