Magazine article Screen International

'Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist': Sundance Review

Magazine article Screen International

'Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist': Sundance Review

Article excerpt

Efficient documentary about Dame Vivienne, the queen of punk

Dir: Lorna Tucker. UK. 2017. 78mins

“I will get into it, but it’s so boring,” sighs Vivienne Westwood of the prospect of narrating her own life story. It’s a brave statement with which to open a debut documentary but, as filmmaker Lorna Tucker knows all too well, any study of this British fashion designer will prove anything but dull. Despite the endearing reticence of its subject, Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist uses interviews, archive footage and intimate fly-on-the-wall access to get (almost) to the heart of this remarkable woman; although one suspects that Westwood will always keep some secrets firmly up her sleeve.

Westwood shines not only as a remarkable, trend-setting designer but also an inspirational individual

Westwood’s fans should ensure a built-in audience for this comprehensive, if brisk, documentary; particularly in her native UK, where Dogwoof will give the film a limited theatrical release on March 23. Dogwoof has also inked deals with several territories including Japan, Australia and Germany, and the film’s simple structure and concise running time should see it fit comfortably with on-demand platforms and broadcasters where its 78-minute running time will sit well.

Westwood’s defiant personality, on display from the off as she shifts unhappily in her chair and tells Tucker how best to do her job, is a large part of her enduring popularity. While she is known for her outspoken and anti-establishment designs, most notably for punk bands like The Sex Pistols - whom she refuses to talk about, save from a disparaging remark about Johnny Rotten’s ageing anarchy - she also speaks of a burning desire to nurture people, individually and as a race. This has, in later life, seen her put increasing energy into campaigning to reverse climate change.

This dichotomous ideology of protester and protector also informs Westwood’s designs, which are both subversive and instantly recognisable; think of the kilts, the safety pins, the gigantic plastic heels from which supermodel Naomi Campbell tumbled on a 1993 catwalk (and which are now the brand’s biggest seller). Westwood herself acknowledges the irony of the fact that, with her global retail empire, she has become a part of the establishment that she and her peers were so desperate to undermine. …

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