We attended the premiere of Love, Cecil at Sotheby’s New York. The documentary is directed by Lisa Immordino Vreeland and opens June 29, 2018.
In the upper rooms of Sotheby’s vast gallery in New York’s Upper East Side, guests and friends assembled to see the world premiere of Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s latest work, Love, Cecil, about Cecil Beaton- the artist, the aestheticist, the man. We watched this fiery spirit as we snacked on equally-fiery spiced popcorn and a bit of prosecco- likely what Beaton would have wanted. Here’s a quick review of the new film, due 29 June.
An award-winning designer and photographer, Cecil Beaton is an aestheticist and, thus, his work is meaningless. There is no philosophy to consider, no histories to reference, no opinions to brush- only egos to stroke. Your reception of an aesthetist’s work is meaningless. They’ve made their final decisions far before you’ve ever laid eyes upon it. But that’s not to say there isn’t thought or a philosophy supporting an aestheticist’s decision.
At once, in a new documentary out June 29 by Lisa Immordino Vreeland (Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel, Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict), the most heartbreaking and summarizing line, pulled from a diary, is made by Cecil Beaton himself. A reflective moment in which Cecil comments on how his work has no meaning. Was Cecil aware that this was an essential element in being an aestheticist? Cecil was suddenly a critic of his own craft.
Know that aestheticists like Beaton are concerned with beauty in a pure sense- it is the matter of the arrangement of physical and emotional everything- developments of absolutely divine moments. It came so naturally to Beaton that he never considered the guiding principles of his work. Maybe there were none.
In the documentary, viewers have an opportunity to hear a selection of Beaton’s comprehensive diaries narrated in a supple voice, with vivid imagery and supporting interviews from photographers, family and designers who see him as a friend or inspiration.
Viewers are left to only speculate why Beaton was so disenchanted with Hollywood, despite it seeming to be the best place for him and his aesthetics-obsessed ways. There is reason to believe he was intimidated by being around other talented people. Or that Cecil had a change of heart and truly realized the meaninglessness of it all.
Viewers are walked through a childhood, a selection of romantic interests, a variety of enemies and forbidden loves, plus a brief glance at his writing career and chaos. The touch of meaning in Cecil’s life seems to come during his documentation of World War 2, which he offered a glamorously masculine look at war. But it always came back to Cecil being alone in the middle of nowhere, living his life.
There is charm in Cecil’s story, but just as he said himself, it is meaningless. There is no real takeaway from this indulgent documentary beyond a rounded biography. The documentary, which is directed by Lisa Immordino Vreeland, includes previously unseen footage and stills from the photographer and features excerpts from his diaries.
The greater story- and remaining mystery- is how Cecil came to judge beauty- what was groundbreaking about this man? What did he do that was so vastly different? I mean this literally. What elements did he see in beauty, that no one else did?
Worth seeing? Absolutely. Beaton’s work stands the test of time and his character and charm is unmissable. You’ll leave wanting more from this man. I definitely watched My Fair Lady a second time, now knowing the genius behind the costumes.
The interviews include Hamish Bowles, Isaac Mizrahi, David Hockney, and more.
Love, Cecil will open at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Elinor Bunin Monroe Theatre on 29 June with a national release across the US to follow