The photos of the OG Super Models weren’t retouched, but their stories have been

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The Super Models ★★★
Apple TV+

Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford in The Super Models.Credit: AppleTV+

A documentary series as immaculately crafted as one of their celebrated photo shoots, The Super Models is a capable, careful sketching of what happens when you rise to the pinnacle of cultural desire. Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, and Christy Turlington were pioneers, the public faces of a new paradigm in fashion and celebrity, but these episodes sometimes edge around the difficulties that uncovered. Their iconic photos had no digital retouching, the quartet point out, but this narrative is a different matter.

Directors Roger Ross Williams (Love to Love You, Donna Summer) and Larissa Bills are experienced documentarians, and they’ve delivered a satisfying mix of the archival and the anecdotal that matches up to the disparate personalities of the four subjects, who are all executive producers. There are feel good reunions and the stories behind acclaimed images, some thoughtful evaluation and many famous faces – the exception being contemporaries such as Claudia Schiffer and Helena Christensen, who apparently do not exist.

The chronological storytelling has prominent punctuation, such as the collective star power of David Fincher’s alluring 1990 music video for George Michael’s Freedom, but it’s smart enough to at least note some lingering issues. The documentary acknowledges that the women’s flawless beauty may have distorted expectations, but it prefers to run a clip of Camille Paglia saying this rather than having them address it now. It’s a compartmentalised production, where moments outside the emotional guidelines erupt but then evaporate.

The most noticeable example is Evangelista, the gentlest and most vulnerable of the four in the contemporary interviews, revealing how her husband in the 1990s, French model agent Gerald Marie, physically abused her during their marriage. “He knew not to touch the face, the moneymaker,” she says, capturing an indelible image of how a marriage forged in fashion and commerce could become malignant. The other three never offer acknowledgment or understanding, emphasising that despite the shared title this is four individual stories.

The modern lens allows for some positive reinterpretation: they had agencies represent them, but they had they to grasp their own agency. There’s little on the history of modelling, but some corporate insight. The celebratory air – they are survivors, CEOs, mothers, and apparently in Campbell’s case, a “stateswoman” – does mean that those looking for some juicy haute couture dirt aren’t going to be satisfied. The supermodels believe their triumph stemmed from emotionally owning their images, revealing their public personas. This show follows the same smooth path.

El Conde ★★★½

Pinochet (Jaime Vadell) is a vampire, hundreds of years old and now in hiding after faking his 2006 death in El Conde.Credit: Pablo Larrain/Netflix

While he’s best known internationally for Jackie and Spencer, films about women required to navigate the untenable circumstances of their celebrated marriages, the true focus of the Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larrain has been the scars of his homeland left by the repressive military rule of Augusto Pinochet. The dictator’s presence – unseen, but pervasive – underpinned Post Mortem’s grim search in 2010 and the tense triumph of 2012’s No.

Fifty years after Pinochet’s coup against a democratically elected government, El Conde presents the former president as a literal monster. As sketched by a cheerful narrator, Pinochet (Jaime Vadell) is a vampire, hundreds of years old and now in hiding after faking his 2006 death. Pinochet takes flight and cuts hearts from chests, but in this mordant horror-comedy he’s surrounded by his venal family, a murderous factotum, and a dedicated nun.

The gorgeously classical black-and-white cinematography bumps up against a buoyant score and scything satire. Chile, Larrain suggests, can never be free of Pinochet, as his crimes are recounted via interviews with his greedy offspring. The accoutrements of power are telling – flying in his military cape Pinochet is a fascist superhero – and Larrain’s gory filmmaking is equally effective as historic prosecution or a macabre fantasy.

Amazon Prime

Jenna Coleman in Wilderness.Credit: Prime Video

After The Cry I’m prepared to follow Jenna Coleman into whatever show she chooses, and not surprisingly she’s the best thing in this eventually flaccid marital revenge melodrama. Brits living in America, Will (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) and Liv (Coleman) are on a reconciliation road trip – Will thinks it’s to patch their relationship back together after his infidelity was revealed, but Jenna is starting to think she’d be better off as a widow. Coleman makes that decision subversive and empowering, but the narrative undercuts it with oodles of plot that doesn’t hang together. It’s a missed opportunity.

I Am Groot (season 2)

Vin Diesel is the voice of Groot in the short and sweet I Am Groot.Credit: Disney+

With episodes just six minutes long, an entire season of this animated adventure is done in half an hour, the perfect length for an enjoyable sideshow about the tiny extraterrestrial plant creature from the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. As voiced by Vin Diesel with an extremely compact vocabulary, Baby Groot is a novice explorer and occasional juvenile delinquent. Per James Gunn’s big screen franchise, Kirsten Lepore’s spin-off moves between sweet camaraderie and mordant twists. Its slice of (space) life dynamic is a great fit for the character, and the show works for newcomers or devotees.

Revealed – Danielle Laidley: Two Tribes

Former AFL footballer and coach Danielle Laidley.Credit: Stan

This feature-length documentary, which comes with a necessary viewer discretion warning, has a simple impetus that keeps it moving forward. “I’ve had to hide in different ways,” notes Danielle Laidley, the former AFL footballer and high-profile coach, and wanting to deliver her truth after being outed as transgender in 2020 following a police arrest leads to a life story that’s told with both empathy and an understanding of the very different worlds Laidley has traversed. The emotional mood is sometimes telegraphed, but the raw honesty of her testimony is both genuine and telling.

Far North
“Mostly based on an unbelievable true story,” this New Zealand caper-comedy is about the largest methamphetamine bust in the country’s history, when police in 2016 apprehended the recipients of a delivery of 500 kilograms via China in a small seaside town in New Zealand’s northernmost province. Temuera Morrison and Robyn Malcolm are quite good as the local couple who accidentally unravel the plot, and the show works best as a very dry comedy. The black comedy that ties together the life and death (or jail) stakes for other participants doesn’t always work as well.

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