Born in 1941, Vivienne Westwood describes her drive to uncover the truth from a very young age. This seems to be a recurring theme throughout this documentary, as her passion to understand and seek meaningful information in order to help the world, continues to this day (her work on climate change, clean energy and civil rights causes).
A skilled tailor from a very young age, Vivienne’s rebellion (she felt she couldn’t “trust anyone”) led her to Malcolm McClaren and their Chelsea boutique SEX, which had a defining role in the punk movement, in terms of fashion and attitude. This era of Vivienne’s life is fascinating and when married with the footage from the time, leaves the viewer wanting to know more about this famous coupling. Unfortunately, that’s about all you get.
Perhaps this is all director Lorna Tucker could charm out of Vivienne as she appeared unenthusiastic at times, sitting uncomfortably, complaining about the tedium of this time in her life. “Can’t you get old footage or something?” But herein lies the delight of this documentary; you learn of the personable, frank and very endearing Vivienne Westwood.
The 80’s saw Vivienne reinvent herself with what she knew best. Her clothing label flourished, as her designs of frank sexuality mixed with historic romantic classicism triumphed. She had the last laugh after the British Press quite literally, laughed in her face. It also highlighted her riveting romantic relationship and business partnership with Andreas Kronthaler. Opinionated and at times difficult, Kronthaler is very much a powerhouse in his own right and is responsible for 50% of all the design work that goes into Vivienne Westwood as an ever-growing clothing brand.
In the three years it took director Lorna Tucker to complete this documentary, you see her interest in the facets of Vivienne’s life match the syntax of the title’s nouns. She is interested in Vivienne’s involvement in punk rock, somewhat interested in her work as a fashion designer and a little interested in her activism. According to The Seattle Times, 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.”
In the end, this film was an informative and reflective journey, but I was left wanting to know just a little bit more.
The documentary was denounced by Vivienne Westwood via her Twitter, before it even premiered at Sundance: “Lorna Tucker asked to film Vivienne’s activism and followed her around for a couple of years, but there’s not even five minutes activism in the film, instead there’s lots of old fashion footage which is free and available online. It’s a shame because the film is mediocre, and Vivienne and Andreas are not.”