Hypnotically enthralling from the very start, All Man: The International Male Story is a swift documentary that showcases the many layers to the catalog in question, especially it’s significance with gay men, while also containing surprisingly emotional elements.
Dubbed the “Victoria’s Secret for men,” International Male was a catalog that took men’s fashion to new levels and soon became a trend-setting publication while also reaching young gay men with the good-looking models and redefining of masculinity. Filmmakers Bryan Darling and Jesse Finley Reed deploy all of the qualities of a top-notch documentary here with an engaging concept, firsthand interviews, archival footage, and an emotional arc that helps explain the impact of the subject. What struck me was the the way in which the market for International Male grew without the intention of its creators, becoming a beacon of for young men both gay and straight who now had unwritten permission to express themselves in new ways. For gay men, it served as a bridge for many to find the courage to come out.
Within the ranks of the magazine were many individuals who soon became victims of the AIDS epidemic, coworkers, friends, and family who lost their lives. These moments within the film are reminders of our history and, in the case of All Man, an unexpected layer that takes the story of a small magazine to a tonally different level. As a snapshot of a time with totally different expectations of men, All Man explores the evolution of masculinity through the lens of fashion while also addressing the discriminatory practices of the industry, perceptions of those involved, and more. Wholly enjoyable and just very well made, with delightful contributions from stars like Matt Bomer and Carson Kressley.
Seen at the 2022 Tribeca Festival