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LOVE, CECIL

I’ve known Cecil Beaton’s name ever since I saw Gigi as a kid and enjoyed his exquisite costume and production design. I later learned that he was a celebrated artist and photographer as well as a social gadfly, but I still didn’t know much about him. That has been fully remedied by Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s absorbing new documentary Love, Cecil. Much of the story is told by Beaton himself, in a series of vintage television interviews, and while there are other notable “talking heads,” he is perhaps his own best chronicler.

A precocious talent with a gift for making influential friends and losing them just as easily, Beaton’s gifts as an illustrator, designer, diarist and photographer earned him success on both sides of the Atlantic, especially in the pages of British and American Vogue. An embarrassing incident cost him his career and he was only able to find redemption by dedicating himself to the war effort, where he worked with great distinction and uncharacteristic unselfishness. This is one of the most interesting and revelatory sections of Vreeland’s film.

He was, above all, a character: self-made, larger-than-life, with a peculiar self-destructive streak. There is a brief but hilarious interview clip with George Cukor, with whom he collaborated on the ravishing My Fair Lady. Like so many other relationships, this one did not end well, to put it mildly.

Cecil Beaton is one of those names that rings out in any history of 20th century art and culture. This entertaining and candid film explains why.

To see where Love, Cecil is playing theatrically and learn more about the film, go to www.zeitgeistfilms.com

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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November 2018
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