Love, Cecil review – intelligent tribute to fashion’s Bright Young Thing

Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s previous documentary was a portrait of art patron Peggy Guggenheim, and this study of Cecil Beaton is in the same celebratory mode. This was the British designer, photographer, social alpinist and Bright Young Thing who suffered a scandal after making an antisemitic slur in the 1930s, but after his craven, miserable (and sincere) apology for this silly shock tactic, he enjoyed royal patronage from the then Queen Elizabeth and was rehabilitated with the approach of war, during which he took valuable reportage pictures for Life magazine. He went on to create the look for the movie version of My Fair Lady, and maintained his own slightly quaint neo-Edwardian aesthetic for fashion magazines well into the swinging 60s. The film is intelligent, thorough and sympathetic, with Rupert Everett narrating Beaton’s diaries. But it never quite persuades you that Beaton really deserves to be considered a substantial artist. I found myself thinking of FR Leavis’s wisecrack about the Sitwells belonging to the history of publicity rather than of poetry. There is a touch of satirist Craig Brown in Beaton’s icily haughty pronouncements such as: “The call saying that the Queen wants me to take her coronation photographs comes as an enormous relief.” A moderately interesting study.

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