Wild West­wood calls the shots

Sunday Star-Times - - MUSIC REVIEWS - – James Croot

West­wood: Punk, Icon, Ac­tivist (M) 80 mins ★★★

As the sub­ti­tle sug­gests, Lorna Tucker’s de­but fea­ture doc­u­men­tary is very much the por­trait of a life in three acts.

The sub­ject? A woman who no less a lu­mi­nary than Pamela An­der­son de­scribes as ‘‘be­ing on the planet for a rea­son, to stir things up a bit’’.

Like Alexan­der McQueen (the sub­ject of an­other re­cent and su­pe­rior doco), Vivi­enne West­wood has been one of the lead­ing lights of the Bri­tish fash­ion in­dus­try dur­ing the past four decades.

How­ever, she’s al­ways been her own woman, never afraid to court con­tro­versy. That also makes her some­what of a dif­fi­cult in­ter­view sub­ject. Much of the mod­ern day footage con­sists of her re­luc­tantly dis­cussing var­i­ous as­pects of her ca­reer or sim­ply cut­ting the con­ver­sa­tion dead. ‘‘Do we have to cover ev­ery bit?’’ she be­moans.

There’s also per­haps a dis­tinct lack of other voices to give bal­ance to cer­tain in­ci­dents (her former part­ner in punk Mal­colm McLaren is pretty much vil­i­fied), or to give con­text to just how im­por­tant her aes­thetic and point of view has been to Bri­tish and global fash­ion. Like­wise, the third, ac­tivist strand is given pretty short shrift, sug­gest­ing that per­haps a longer edit of the movie was orig­i­nally planned.

Where the film does come alive though is in the be­hind-the-scenes footage of West­wood cri­tiquing her own col­lec­tion, or how it is be­ing por­trayed. ‘‘I don’t know if I want to show any of this,’’ she laments at one point.

The love story and work­ing re­la­tion­ship be­tween her and her much younger hus­band An­dreas Kron­thaler also makes for some fas­ci­nat­ing mo­ments. At times, he is very much yin to her yang.

Then there’s the archival trea­sure trove dug up by Tucker. That in­cludes an amaz­ing ap­pear­ance on Terry Wo­gan’s chat show and footage of her back-to-back De­signer of the Year vic­to­ries.

Both of those show­case the con­tempt and open hos­til­ity she was up against, be­fore she be­came a celebrity sta­ple and the Bri­tish pub­lic were even­tu­ally won over. I have a feel­ing this might not be the fi­nal word on the grande Dame of English fash­ion.

Vivi­enne West­wood proves to be some­thing of a dif­fi­cult in­ter­view sub­ject.

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