Vivienne Westwood herself disavowed the film, saying in a statement that "Westwood" spent barely five minutes on her activism and that "the film is mediocre." "Westwood" is definitely better than mediocre, though you wish there were a bit more to it.
The title of the Vivienne Westwood documentary “Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist” is unwieldy yet accurate, right down to the order of its nouns. Lorna Tucker’s film about the designer — still very much at work, at 77 — is particularly interested in Westwood’s years in punk rock, somewhat interested in her iconic status in British fashion, and a bit interested in her activism.
It’s fair to say that the activism — Westwood is passionate about climate change, clean energy, and other environmental and civil-rights causes — definitely gets short shrift. Westwood herself famously disavowed the film at its Sundance premiere earlier this year, saying in a statement that “Westwood” spent barely five minutes on her activism and “It’s a shame, because the film is mediocre, and Vivienne and Andreas (her husband and business partner) are not.”
“Westwood” is definitely better than mediocre, though you wish there were a bit more to it. Tucker frames the film with shots of her unenthusiastic subject parked on a purple velvet armchair and complaining about the tedium of talking about her life. “It’s so boring to say all that,” she kvetches. “Can’t you get old footage or something?” Nonetheless, a fascinating story emerges: a young mother who tossed aside her conventional life in the 1960s to join Malcolm McLaren in the burgeoning punk scene; an emerging designer in the 1980s, whose work blended in-your-face sexuality with romantic classicism; an international businesswoman who frets today that her company has gotten too big for her to personally control.
The film is over quickly, before I’d seen quite enough of Westwood’s fanciful clothing, or heard quite enough of her voice. “The film’s only a certain length, I’m sure there’s more interesting things to put in it,” she says, testily preparing to depart the armchair. Maybe so, but I would happily have listened longer.
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★★½ “Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist,” a documentary directed by Lorna Tucker. 80 minutes. Not rated; contains strong language/nudity. Opens July 13 at SIFF Film Center.