Film Review: WESTWOOD: Punk, Icon, Activist (UK 2018) ***

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Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist Poster

The first film to encompass the remarkable story of one of the true icons of our time, as she fights to maintain her brand’s integrity, her principles – and her legacy.


Lorna Tucker


The Westwood mentioned here is Dame Vivienne Westwood, fashion’s notorious rebel.  Westwood defined the British Fashion scene for 40 years and she is responsible for creating many of the most distinctive looks of our time.  Her partner at the time was Sex Pistols’ manager Malcolm McLaren.

The film begins with Westwood speaking freely to the camera.  Director Tuckers knows her subject’s quaint personality and instead of asking questions with her answering lets her do the talking. “I do not like to answer questions,” she confesses to the camera. “Terribly boring.”  But Tuckers does ask her tot all about the Sex Pistols, which she grumbles about, ‘but that makes uninteresting talk.”  By letting Westwood talk, Tuckers intersperses her words with archive footage and images that are obtained on the subject.  The film surprisingly, flows very smoothly as if all the images and words matching identically.  Amidst all this, the audience learns of the origin of her design, together with watching many of her originals, many weird yet fascinating.  It is more is insightful to watch a documentary about a subject when the subject is still alive and able to speak about herself and her work to the camera.  Vivienne’s son and her manager, Carlo (both of whom do not get along) also have their say in the film.  Pamela Anderson, Christina Hendricks and Kate Moss make welcome cameo interviewees.

Despite the fact that Westwood is a worldwide known celebrity designer, Tuckers brings her down to earth by devoting a fair amount of screen time to her personal and business problems.  Her breakup with then husband Malcolm, her relationship with Andreas from Austria as well as her business problems make her a more vulnerable person.

The second half of the doc reveals Westwood as an activist for the environment.  She works with Greenpeace and is concerned about the end of humanity that comes with a dying planet.

There film blends archival footage, beautifully crafted reconstruction, and insightful interviews with Vivienne’s fascinating network of collaborators.

Director Lorna Tuckers herself spent her 20’s working behind the camera and jumping on tour buses with bands creating tour videos and music promos.  She understands the problems that come with success.  The film emphasizes Westwood’s reluctance of expanding her brad too fast.

And what is Westwood the person like?  She is shown to be bossy, fond of uttering foul language like the frequent use of the ‘f’ word and also not afraid to come down on her employees.  On a more personal level, she is shown to be a caring mother and one who would not take any nonsense from her at times, jealous husband, Malcolm.

Tuckers’s film moves along at a good pace,and her documentary makes as compelling a watch as her subject Dame Vivienne Westwood is compelling.

WESTWOOD the documentary comes to Toronto June 29 for a one week engagement at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema. 


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