* * (out of five)
It’s self-evident that you don’t need to hold a strong pre-existing interest in the subject of a well-made documentary for it to engage you thoroughly. I held as close to zero interest as is possible for the fashion industry, yet I, like many others, was captivated by The September Issue, Unzipped and The First Monday In May. Those trail-blazers have spawned an entire sub-genre, and now feature length docs about designers, fashion houses and events on the fashion circuit come thick and fast. Just in the last few months we’ve had The Gospel According to André and McQueen in cinemas.
As with any trend, there’s a law of diminishing returns, and Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist, about British designer Vivienne Westwood, is an example of this, or a victim. It is not told with any particular élan, and the subject herself comes off as grumpy and, worse, uninteresting.
Obviously, Westwood is a great talent, and her career stands for itself. But the Westwood who sits for director Lorna Tucker’s camera doesn’t seem to want to be there and tells her story – barely – with no excitement. Tucker fills out her scant eighty-three minutes with archival footage and interviews with Westwood’s sons, lover and acolytes, but none of the material crackles with the excitement or verve of her designs. This minor film proves that just because you’ve befriended a major artist doesn’t mean you’re ready to make a film about them.