The Conflict at the Heart of the Galliano Documentary

What moral lapses should genius be permitted? John Galliano, self-styled bad boy of fashion, seemed determined to find out.

He was a fashion-world Icarus: a prodigious talent who soared high, then crashed to earth in 2011, losing his reputation and his position as creative director of Dior, after a series of highly publicized drunken, racist and antisemitic tirades. He would rise again, but the path back was steep.

The aptly titled “High & Low: John Galliano,” directed by Kevin Macdonald, chronicles this roller coaster of a career, while exposing some of the less beautiful side of the fashion industry — the toll it exacts from even those it most glorifies.

Mr. Galliano proved himself a genius early on, designing not just clothes, but hallucinogenic visions, alive with color, movement, texture and, above all, stories. Skyrocketing out of St. Martin’s School of Art in London in 1984, he produced a dazzling graduation collection called “Les Incroyables,” inspired by an 18th-century French fashion movement. In the film, the renowned fashion journalist, Hamish Bowles, calls it one of the five greatest runway shows he’s ever seen.

Mr. Galliano’s star rose quickly. He attracted backers, key editors (André Leon Talley and Anna Wintour anointed him), a slinky entourage that featured Amanda Harlech as his personal muse and a bevy of one-named ’90s glamazons — Naomi, Linda, Kate. After a stint at Givenchy, Mr. Galliano ascended to Dior, one of France’s most historic luxury houses.

From “Les Clochards” in 2000; reimagining ancient Egypt in 2004; and a barely there look from 1997.Credit…firstVIEW, firstVIEW, firstVIEW

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