Love, Cecil

Dazzling black-and-white images, coaxed along by eloquent diary entries, power this documentary portrait of British photographer and designer Cecil Beaton, who epitomized 1930s sophistication with his work at American Vogue, forged a second career as a documentary photographer during World War II, and later created costumes for such Hollywood splendors as Gigi (1958) and My Fair Lady (1964). Beaton’s fashion photography and movie-star portraits are exquisite, often staged in immense white spaces and with delicate use of expressionist shadow; the war photography brings his gift for capturing a subject’s essence to decidedly less glamorous settings. Director Lisa Immordino Vreeland touches on Beaton’s gay love life, his glittering social life, and the scandal that nearly ended his career in 1938, when he snuck anti-Semitic slurs into an illustration for Vogue. But her best accomplishment is having gathered so much of Beaton’s work from various disciplines into one place, so the full force of his aesthetic can be appreciated.