Vivienne Westwood is a punk, icon, and unreliable subject in new documentary

2018-05-27 00:00
Vivienne Westwood

Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist 

Director: Lorna Tucker

Three stars

Superdesigner Vivienne Westwood, as the Times so eloquently said was “Dame-d by the very Queen she and her fellow punks once desired to ‘destroy’” has for decades been a darling to a legion of disparate people, from supermodels to punk rockers and fabulous outsiders to It girls.

Director Lorna Tucker tried her best to finally create a Westwood documentary that honours the icon, but, unfortunately, Dame Viv wanted none of it.

“Do we have to cover every bit of it?” she grumbles in an interview at the beginning of the film. “It’s so boring.”

It also turns out she didn’t like the final cut: “The documentary ... has been made and produced by a third party and, as it stands, isn’t endorsed by Vivienne Westwood. Lorna Tucker asked to film Vivienne’s activism and followed her around for a couple of years, but there’s not even five minutes of activism in the film. It’s a shame because the film is mediocre, and Vivienne and Andreas [Westwood’s partner] are not.”

Ouch. The documentary isn’t as terrible as all that, and Tucker should be commended for putting together a well-edited portrayal of the icon’s life. There’s plenty of interesting archival footage, as well as great contextualising commentary from the people around the dame, but it often feels like something is missing.

If you’re looking for a fashion biopic that’s truly mesmerising, 2014’s Iris about Iris Apfel is the better pick – perhaps because Iris is just much more likable.

However, one has to commend Westwood for never compromising to suit others. That is, after all, what has made her into one the world’s top designers. Punk, Icon, Activist will offer you a look at the woman herself, and Tucker can’t be faulted for trying.

  • The Fun’s Not Over – The James Phillips Story is screening at the Encounters South African International Documentary Festival taking place from May 31 to June 10 in Cape Town and Joburg. For tickets, go to publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

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