Pants And Punk: Tucker Stitches A Unique Though Patchy Portrait Of Fashion Icon
The core concept of punk, and its origins, have been the cause of much debate throughout pop culture history. Many critics and artists have devoted entire central themes of their works to discussing the foundations and canonizing saints of this counterculture movement, with only marginal consensus on particular milestones and champions. Ironically, this conflict is emblematic of punk’s tumultuous nature; and while punk is usually spoken of along musical (Sex Pistols, The Velvet Underground, Black Flag) and filmic lines (The Blank Generation, Breaking Glass, Liquid Sky), the fashionable aspect is something that is just as important, as it defines the very mental image of a punk. That is where designer Vivienne Westwood comes into the picture, as the one primarily responsible for introducing punk and new wave fashions onto the global stage. Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist traipses the famed designer’s career from its humble beginnings up to her contemporary multinational fashion empire, brimming with an energetic sense of humor and adventure.
The film’s focus shifts incessantly between a chronological recountment of Westwood’s early principles and struggles to implement her brand in England, to the current demands and ethical conundrums that arise when running an international brand which must produce new material each year. While the tricks of the trade and the accompanying logistical nightmares are all laid bare, Westwood remains the film’s primary tonal catalyst through her no-nonsense demeanor and quick-witted personality. While walking through her experiences with the Sex Pistols, almost working hand-in-hand with Giorgio Armani, and tempestuous personal life; former and current designers, models, artists, and musicians all laud Westwood for her ingenuity and vision. Docu-helmer Lorna Tucker rounds out on the legacy of Westwood on world fashion and world affairs, and how she continues to strive for her political and social ideals through her clothing and activism.
Westwood is the hub of this film (rightfully so), and maintains the narrative’s momentum and atmosphere, her ideas of societal rage the backbone for the film’s aesthetic. However, her charismatic presence isn’t enough to disguise numerous technical and stylistic missteps, most notably the frustrating editing by Paul Carlin. Carlin’s editorial sense is rather impressive in most individual scenes, but his poor segmentation and sloshed assembly with almost non-apparent segues does the rest of the film a great disservice. This occurs in tandem with (the normally eclectic) Dan Jones’s musical score, which gets excessively kitchier as the runtime ticks onward, and (at times) drowns out interviewees mid-sentence.
The most heartfelt appreciation of Westwood throughout this document will most likely be experienced by fashion aficionados and diehard fans of the noted brand. For those more casually invested, the film will come across as stylistic, socially biting, but nevertheless seemingly a little shallow and hodgepodged together. Its titular subject remains active and ever-producing, unleashing new creations on the world each year, however Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist serves (at best) as an introduction to Westwood and her effects on the fashion world; and deserves to have far more voices from a wider array of perspectives assembled in a more succinct manner to paint a greater picture of the unconventional artist.
★★★½ / ☆☆☆☆☆
Matthew Roe is a Baltimore-based film critic and award-winning filmmaker, who has contributed to over 100 various films, videos and web series, and is the founder of the independent production company Heaven’s Fire Films. He writes dedicated columns titled Psycho Pompous and Anarchic Cinema for CommunitySoul.net on film history and theory. Top Films From Contemporary Film Auteurs: Bekmambetov (Nochnoy dozor), Herzog (Fitzcarraldo), Miike (Audition), Haneke (Funny Games), Lynch (Mulholland Dr.), Johnson (Brick), Clark (Kids), Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream), Tarantino (Inglorious Basterds), Anderson (There Will Be Blood), Coyula (Memorias del desarrollo).