Lisa Immordino Vreeland follows up her Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict with another look at an outsider among the beautiful people with the documentary Love, Cecil. The outsider of course once again outshines them all, in this case portrait photographer, fashion designer, and queer icon Cecil Beaton. Born in England in 1904, he’s probably best known for designing the dress you visualize when reading the words “Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady,” and he also shot Queen Elizabeth’s coronation photos.
Though he couldn’t help but internalize some of the era’s inescapable homophobia, he knew early on that to find the world he wanted he had to be himself no matter what, adopting an appearance that was very Quentin Crisp. (If there’s any noticeable omission in the picture, it’s the lack of a Crisp shout-out.) Love, Cecil uses Beaton’s diaries as a primary source, and doesn’t necessarily shy away from his darker side, including his self-described tendency to “hate unreasonably” — what we now questionably celebrate as queeny bitchiness. Vreeland’s picture will be of special interest to aficionados of the late-1990s retro-glam wave, as elements of Todd Haynes’ and Marilyn Manson’s respective masterpieces Velvet Goldmine and Mechanical Animals can be traced back to Beaton. For all his flaws, Cecil still offered a lot to love.
Opens Friday at the Opera Plaza Cinema.