John Galliano’s Polarizing Reputation Explored in New MUBI Documentary


MUBI’s new documentary High & Low – John Galliano doesn’t shy away from the darker moments of its subject’s life. Following Galliano from his breakthrough success as a fashion student at Central Saint Martins, his rise to fame with Givenchy and Dior and the controversies that have cast a shadow over his career. The film, available exclusively on MUBI, a streaming service known for its curation of visionary films, offers thought-provoking insight into the story of one of fashion’s most polarizing figures.

The film opens with footage of Galliano’s antisemitic tirade that cost the designer his sterling reputation and position at Dior in 2011. The lead up to this and the subsequent fallout are the focal point of the documentary, directed by Academy Award-winner® Kevin Macdonald, known for his work in Whitney, Marley and The Last King of Scotland.

In the film, we see Galliano’s unshakeable friendships with other fashion darlings, like Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell, the mentorship and support he received from powerhouses Anna Wintour and Andre Leon Talley, and his relationship with his family.

Galliano’s talent is undeniable, with his time at Dior turning out some of the most revered collections in fashion history. Many consider him one of the greatest designers of his generation—this truth is often held in complicated contrast to how he is viewed as a person.

As Galliano’s star rose, so too, he admits, did his disconnect from reality. He began to see himself as a divine figure, as his addiction to alcohol and drugs became out of control. The designer is candid about this period, a stark contrast to his life now having been completely sober for over a decade.

Throughout the film many question whether his verbal assaults were a byproduct of this illness or a glimpse into insidious beliefs he held. Not everyone has forgiven Galliano’s antisemitic outbursts, one of which led him to be charged and fined for hate crimes, and it’s not clear if he entirely grasps the hurt he created.

This continues to be the thorn in Galliano’s legacy—including the jaw-dropping work he has created at Maison Margiela since 2014. The documentary shows how complex his story is.

In the end, it’s up to the viewer to decide whether great art can be separated from the artist.

High & Low – John Galliano is now streaming on MUBI. Watch this and many other innovative films with 30 free days of MUBI.

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Photos courtesy of MUBI. Feature image ©Barry Marsden.