Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel (2011)

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The woman who helped redefine what Fashion is during the C20th is the fascinating subject of this entertaining and colourful documentary. For more than 50 years Diana Vreeland (1903-89) has been instrumental in setting the tone for the world of style. As Editor of both Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue Magazines she was able to exert an enormous influence on women and indeed a lot of men and it is this legacy that Lisa Immordino Vreeland, her grandaughter-in-law, shines an intimate and visually arresting spotlight on. For fashionistas, this is an invaluable history lesson about fashion, but, more importantly, the greater story lies in Vreeland as a woman whose sheer determination to stand out from the crowd is truly inspirational.

There have been a recent spate of tribute films about the world of fashion, from designers like the late Yves Saint Laurent and Valentino, the charming and very moving portrait of legendary photographer Bill Cunningham, and not forgetting the eye-opening The September Issue. Each in their own way have successfully demystified the world of fashion, to show at the heart of it are extremely unique and talented individuals. But with Diana Vreeland, we are at the apex of that world. One can not help but be entirely captivated by her words, her poise and elegance are beyond and her imagination is comparable to that of any great film auter, writer or artist. Arguably she was one of the most important and influential women in the last 100 years.

Born during the Belle Epoque in Paris, she saw first hand why the twenties roared, became immediately captivated by rhythm, fell in love with Russian Ballet, with Josephine Baker, with dancing and with life itself. From there it all seemed to fit into place when she was recruited to Harper’s Bazaar, with no formal education, she relished the working world as she quickly moved from writing her irreverent column to Editor of the magazine. The revelations come thick and fast during the film and they are fascinating thanks to some incredible archival TV footage of the late Diana in her 70’s and with a wonderful running interview soundtrack recorded by esteemed writer George Plimpton, here we get Vreeland at her most outlandish, captivating and insightful.

While the film is complemented by a host of who’s who of the fashion world, not to mention her own family, who are nothing but complimentary and yet also deeply critical, nothing is as engaging as the woman herself. A consumate professional working woman, who, even by her own omission, says she is lazy, continued to work into her 80’s. To see the photographs and the stories she ran in her magazines is to see the entire 20th Century popular culture, she gave women more than just the clothes to wear, she gave them freedom. Curiously, when asked what she admires “Surfers..” she replies “to be surrounded by water – it’s God’s tranquiliser”. Not surprising though from the woman who danced her way to become the most stylish woman in the world. It’s all about rhythm.

Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel is out on DVD 29th October 2012.

Directors: Lisa Immordino Vreeland, Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt, Frédéric Tcheng
Stars: Diana Vreeland
Runtime: 86 min
Country: USA

Film Rating: ★★★★☆

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