Vivienne Westwood. A grand conundrum at the heart of the punk era. A figure equally polarising as band The Sex Pistols in her style, politics and rebellious creativity in a highly conservative England.
Director Lorna Tucker’s documentary Westwood: Punk. Icon. Activist. is a subtly incisive questioning of Westwood’s past and present.
Utilising a brilliant blend of one on one interviews with Westwood, family and collaborators, juxtaposed with archival footage of photos and film, Westwood teases out a figure who’s a captive of her ‘success’.
Westwood’s journey from failed relationship wth punk svengali Malcolm McLaren, a point in life she “didn’t know what I was doing” to establishment icon proves in this documentary a life long process of attempting to keep an independent, rebellious authenticity of spirit alive. Tucker works hard at piecing together quite widely diverging trends in Westwood’s chronology.
The great question at the heart of Westwood is what has been lost, more then gained by the transformation she powered in popular culture, design and politics. Has Westwood diminished her power and western culture through the process of slowly but surely becoming the darling of the new rich? Is her late 90s political activism an attempt to reclaim her core anti establishment self? Is it too little too late?
These questions and more keep popping up, as the film moves back and forth through Westwood’s history. There is no hint of a conclusive answer. Westwood herself in one on one interviews seems potentially aware of these things, particularly given the urgency in her voice when discussing issues of politics. But it is a subject with much to recommend it to future study, for unquestionably, Westwood has made a deep and lasting imprint on the world. This solid documentary offers a starting point.
Westwood: Punk. Icon. Activist. is currently playing at Palace Nova Eastend only.
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