I’d known about Cecil Beaton as a photographer for decades, but had no idea the breadth of his creative talents. Love, Cecil is a beautifully crafted documentary about him that blends his own interviews with those of his many admirers and friends (and a few enemies) with readings from his many diaries by Rupert Everett, and most importantly showcases his prolific output. From photographing the Royal family for decades to art directing My Fair Lady, to changing the way fashion was portrayed in print, he seemed to never stop working. Directed by Lisa Immordino Vreeland (Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict), the film wisely lets Beaton’s art take center stage and could more aptly be titled, “I love Cecil!”
Beaton was born into a middle-class British family at the turn of the twentieth century, and honed his photographic skills shooting pictures of his sisters and mother. But it was his friendship with socialite Stephen Tennant that afforded him entry into the upper crust, and he made his first big splash photographing Tennant and a group of young aristocrats known in the 20s as The Bright Young Things. What followed was a fabulous career at Vogue, where he made fashion photography about more than the clothes and changed the genre forever. He was also a constant contributor of photos, writings, and drawings at Vanity Fair. And he was the trusted photographer for the Royal Family for four decades, beginning with the Queen Mother, creating a romantic view of them for the world to embrace. And all the while he was writing and drawing and collecting an illustrious set of friends in the creative world and beyond. There was even an affair with Garbo! But his isn’t the story of celebrity, rather it’s a portrait of an amazing, intriguing artist who kept pushing his limits up until the end.
Love, Cecil is a fairly straightforward, chronological telling, but it’s entirely appropriate for the subject matter. If you are a visual person, an art and fashion lover, or you delight in quirky arty characters, you’ll be thoroughly entertained. I was.
[Mainstream Chick’s take: Sadly, I was rather bored. But unlike Arty Chick, I was not familiar with Cecil Beaton’s name (though after watching the documentary, I now know I was indeed familiar with some of his work). We’ve been inundated with quite a few documentaries of late about artists, photographers, fashion icons, etc. so perhaps, as Mainstream Chick, I was feeling just a bit over it. This type of doc is definitely going to be most appreciated by those who are fully immersed or well-versed in the industry or subject matter. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just not my thing, at least not in the case of Love, Cecil. -hb]