– Like the acclaimed work of the title’s meticulous fashion designer, the series directed by Jon Garaño, Aitor Arregi and José Mari Goenaga is full of classicism, elegance and high doses of beauty
Alberto San Juan in Cristóbal Balenciaga
A more than obvious trend is taking over digital platforms, eager to fill their guides with content: the more-or-less faithful biopic defending the figure that stars in it. In this vein and in Spain we have recently seen reconstructed lives of pop figures such as Miguel Bosé and Camilo Sesto, among many others, and this trend can also be seen in many other countries. In this desire to rediscover real figures, alive or dead, is Cristóbal Balenciaga, a Disney+ series that will be available to subscribers on Friday 19 January. Six episodes, with lengths ranging between 40 and 50 minutes per episode, are directed by the trio of filmmakers Jon Garaño, Aitor Arregi and José Mari Goenaga.
The directors of acclaimed films such as Flowers [+see also:
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interview: Aitor Arregi and Jon Garaño
film profile] and The Endless Trench [+see also:
interview: Aitor Arregi, Jon Garaño an…
film profile] have faced, in their own words, their greatest professional challenge as they reconstruct three decades of the life of Cristóbal Balenciaga, another Basque (like them) who managed to become a global figure in fashion. The series follows his professional and personal life from 1937 to 1968; from the time he settles in the French capital fleeing the Spanish Civil War until he closes his maison, through which the European elite graced its doors.
It stars a passionate Alberto San Juan, who imitates the couturier from Getaria. Famous names in haute couture such as Coco Chanel, Cristian Dior and Hubert de Givenchy, and even faces from cinema and European aristocracy, such as Audrey Hepburn and Queen Fabiola of Greece, whose wedding dress was designed by Balenciaga and who is portrayed by Belén Cuesta, parade through its scenes.
Illustrated briefly with documentary and newsreel images that place the action in its corresponding historical moments, Cristóbal Balenciaga is structured as a gigantic flashback thanks to a resource that is often used to recall a life: the long interview. In this way, the protagonist narrates the conflicts that marked his life and which are the focus of each episode. These include the German occupation of Paris, his rivalry with another master of the pin or his imperious need to find his own style that would make him stand out in such an exclusive and competitive display.
Business plots intertwine with personal conflicts in a series with a classic, elegant, detailed and sober staging, just like the dresses that this admired control freak used to make, with special fabrics. Because in this series the couturier’s designs have as much presence and importance as the key people in his life. The audience gets to attend numerous fashion shows and, like his clients, will easily be captivated by the undeniable beauty of the superb creations.
The series – to which another Basque, Alberto Iglesias, has provided the music – thus turns into a catwalk of glamour and luxury, focusing on the evolution of an iconic and elusive character who shied away from public exposure (he never took a political stance and suffered in silence from the rampant homophobia of the 20th century), and also how a business based on wealthy exclusivity functioned. All this takes place between Paris, New York, Madrid and the Basque Country (hence his dialogues are heard in French, English, Spanish and Basque).
(Translated from Spanish by Vicky York)