Who better to co-direct a first-person biography of supermodel Veruschka than cult filmmaker of the '60s, Paul Morrissey? This entertaining feature-length doc owes less to Andy Warhol than to its subject, Vera von Lehndorff, the German countess who reinvented herself as a pop culture icon and later as an independent artist.
This review was updated on Sept. 28, 2005.
Who better to co-direct a first-person biography of supermodel Veruschka than cult filmmaker of the ’60s, Paul Morrissey? This entertaining feature-length doc, co-directed by fashion photog Bernd Bohm, owes less to Andy Warhol, Morrissey’s first directing partner, than to its subject, Vera von Lehndorff, the German countess who reinvented herself as a pop culture icon and later as an independent artist. “Veruschka (My) a Displayed Body” portrays a woman of intelligence and verve. Though totally silent about her private life, doc should still entice TV and cable programmers. Women’s fests will want to take a close look.
Von Lehndorff, still a beauty at 60-plus, narrates her story. Opening is a calculated shocker, as she describes how her aristocratic childhood in East Prussia turned into a “horrible fairytale” when Nazi foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop requisitioned the family castle. Her father, a member of the Resistance who took part in the plot to assassinate Hitler in 1944, was executed and her mother imprisoned.
Abrupt cut to Vera being discovered by a photographer while she was visiting Florence’s Uffizi gallery as an art student. Filmmakers suggest she was responsible for her own meteoric rise to model stardom (she appeared on the covers of 800 mags by 1970) when she deliberately created a lanky, double-jointed, big-hair creature called “Veruschka” and became a pet of photographer/artists Richard Avedon, Steven Meisel and Helmut Newton.
Morrissey and Bohm serve up a juicy selection of period stills and videos, including snaps with Salvador Dali, and her famous role as the model under David Hemmings in “Blow Up.”
Von Lehndorff’s interest in fashion waned and she began a period of body-painting, using her own body as canvas.
Today she lives in Brooklyn and continues to show her work as an avant-guard artist. As co-scripter and the only voice in the film, she seems very consciously in control of once more creating her own image, this time as a strong, self-assured woman of our time. It will probably be up to her print biographers to furnish more light and shadows.