Wild Westwood calls the shots
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.