Beautopia

on March 05, 1999 by Ray Greene
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The shallowness of the world of high fashion is reflected in Katharina Otto's callow documentary "Beautopia," rather than critiqued by it. Aspiring to be a sort of "Hoop Dreams" for wannabe super-models, this well-capitalized exercise spans the globe to track a few seemingly critical weeks in the lives of four young beauties, each of whom is convinced that she just may be the next Kate Moss or Cindy Crawford. Otto's moralistic and egotistical first-person narration would have us believe that her purpose is simply to document what she assumes will be the meteoric rise of a new generation of bright young stars. But merciful heavens! Dashed dreams and inconclusive job leads seem to be the lot of these variously innocent and ambitious lovelies. Or, as Otto says late in the game without a trace of irony, "We were beginning to think that our supermodel fantasy wasn't everything it was cracked up to be."
Neither is this movie, which skims along the sheer and prettified surface of a demonstrably empty professional calling without so much as acknowledging such larger issues as the sexism inherent in paying women millions of dollars for how they look in a dress. A series of remarkably uninteresting interviews with such household names as Elle Macpherson, Claudia Schiffer and Naomi Campbell emphasize the lack of a critical perspective; can Otto seriously believe that anyone is willing to take Campbell's complaints about not having enough time off from her obscenely well-paid and jet-setting dayjob without a very large grain of salt?
A cameo-appearance by lively, neurotic designer Issac Mizrahi, the focus of Douglas Keeve's similarly-themed but vastly superior 1995 documentary "Unzipped," serves as a telling reminder of "Beautopia's" shortcomings. Where Keeve's film managed to both celebrate and condemn the insanity of Mizrahi's calling, "Beautopia" settles for a pretense of serious analysis that is ultimately not even skin deep. Directed, written and produced by Katharina Otto. A Fox Lorber release. Documentary. Not rated. Running time: 103 min.
Tags: Katharina Otto, A Fox Lorber release, Documentary, innocent, jet-setting, shortcomings, Issac Mizrahi
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