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Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel

Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel

Released 21 September 2012
Director Lisa Immordino Vreeland

Diana Vreeland, Diane Von Furstenberg, David Bailey, Manolo Blahnik

Lisa Immordino Vreeland, Bent-Jorgen Pelmutt, Frederic Tcheng
Producer(s) Lisa Immordino Vreeland
Origin United States
Running Time 86 minutes
Genre Documentary

Wild and Vree.

As colourful characters go, former Vogue editor and fashion goliath Diana Vreeland was one of the more memorable creatures of the spectrum. With her chic black bob and aquiline nose she was lauded as one of the most stylish women of the twentieth-century, advising millions of women on how best to cater to their assets and offset their flaws by the simple art of dressing. Written and directed by Vreeland's granddaughter-in-law Lisa Immordino Vreeland Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel is a fitting glimpse into the life of a social butterfly, a woman feted for her ability to move fashion forward into the daring realm of possibility.

Diana Dalziel was the eldest of two daughters born into a bourgeois existence in turn-of-the-century Paris to a genteel British father and a beautiful American socialite mother. At the outbreak of World War I the family decided to move to New York where they became prominent members of Manhattanite society. The abiding memories of her youth as Diana recalled it in many candid interviews, were of the elegant people she became acquainted with and the sea of taffeta and silk at the many parties she attended. It was within the beautifully moulded, lofty rooms of fifth avenue townhouses that Diana Vreeland's infamous mettle was honed-her wit and amusing conversation got her noticed. She needed these, she claims, to offset the fact that she was no beauty in conventional terms. The roaring twenties saw her marry a successful banker, Thomas Vreeland, and together they embarked on a marital adventure that took them to London, where Diana operated a lingerie business with clients like Wallis Simpson and Mona von Bismarck, and back again to the east coast of America. Moving within fashionable circles Diana caught the eye of Carmel Snow, then editor of Harpers Bazaar who asked her to be a regular columnist in her magazine and so Vreeland's publishing career began. With many highs and more than a few lows, Diana Vreeland soon established herself as the doyenne of the fashion magazine world-long before Anna Wintour came on the scene-and whilst many feared her caustic tongue many more revered her for her innate take on style and femininity.

As one might expect when introducing a character such as Diana Vreeland, director Lisa Immordino Vreeland has used a kaleidoscope of colour to illustrate the life of an exotic being. Great swathes of red, orange and yellow career across the screen as we watch a young Diana flirt and hobnob with the creme de la creme of the society world. The fact that it is Diana's voice itself which narrates proceedings gives this documentary a necessary vitality, a feeling that we too are experiencing the world as she saw it with its horse's hooves and Byzantine colour. What Diana lacked in formal education was more than made up for by her innate chutzpah and her unwavering confidence in her ability to tell women how to dress. The Eye Has To Travel can however become a little tiresome at times-Immordino Vreeland seems to have taken the more social and public side of Diana as her guide, whereas it would have been a nice dichotomy to get more of an insight into the private workings of Vreeland-the woman dubbed 'ugly' by her exquisite mother as a child. Also at times the voiceover can seem a little contrived-whilst the narratory aspect is good and almost visceral, it can at times also be intrusive. The Eye Has To Travel is a fitting metaphor for a woman who liked to not only draw her reader's eyes across the pages of her editorials, but who also liked to look outside the box, outside the constraints of society, to an imaginary world all her own.

- Louisa McElwee