Thursday, November 22, 2012

Review: Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel

Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel
Dir. Lisa Immordino Vreeland
Country: USA
Aus Rating: G
Running Time: 86mins

Thanks to the success of television competition program Project Runway, filmmakers saw an unfulfilled niche and fashion is now big business on the big screen. Whether fictional (The Devil Wears Prada) or documentary (The September Issue, Bill Cunningham New York), fashion and the people who design/sell/market it are being followed by cameras more than ever before. Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel reaches into the archives and out emerges this wonderfully entertaining documentary about the famed Harper’s Bazaar columnist and Vogue fashion editor during the fashionably revolutionary “Youthquake” movement. Using videotape, audio interviews, archival footage, and newly-filmed interviews with the late Diana (pronounced “Dee-ah-na”) Vreeland’s famous associates, Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s doco is vibrant and bursting with information on Vreeland whose years in the industry catapulted her to celebrity status amongst the fashion forward and twisted the industry into an artform like none others.

With her voice deep, husky voice, Vreeland sounds not too far from being a relative of Bea Arthur or Lauren Bacall. The latter of which, as a matter of fact, Vreeland discovered in the 1940s! Directed by her granddaughter-in-law, Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel is blessed with some truly fabulous video and audio footage. The outspoken Vreeland was steadfast in her opinions and didn’t tolerate people around her who weren’t up to task. Her demanding attitude surely makes for some great storytelling and anecdotes, and thanks to some snappy editing by Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt and Frédéric Tcheng, the film makes for a more worthwhile cinematic outing than some other recent documentary efforts.

Knowing little about her before viewing this brief 86-minute film, other than her famous magazine connections of course, meant there was plenty to discover. The story of this unconventional and entirely fascinating woman makes for a fun, documentary, if one that only truly examines the woman from her own lofty perspective. Only occasionally detouring into the darker side of her success – namely her subsequent lack of motherly affection to her two sons – the director never threatens to truly question the methods or the ideals of the relative she never knew.

Perhaps the most interesting chapter was the final one before her death in 1989. Having found her extravagant spending get her into one final batch of hot water at Vogue, she was promptly fired and, before too long, took up a role at the grand Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. Bringing her knowledge of both historical and contemporary fashion to even larger audiences than those perusing the magazine stands, she helped usher in a new age of fashionably hip museum exhibits that examined fashion and pop culture in a way comparable to a Monet or Pollack. She let clothes be the art, and in doing so helped make way for the modern age of design that saw designers and models become celebrities, and the clothes instantly iconic. She had a captivating presence that is well served by this film, a film that many devotees of fashion will be richer for watching. B / B+


dylann andre said...

This is really a nice story.

BRENTON said...

Greatly enjoyed this documentary.