Thursday, October 11, 2012

DIANA VREELAND: THE EYE HAS TO TRAVEL (2012)

Directed by Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt & Lisa Immordino Vreeland


Where & When: Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, New York, NY.  October 2, 2012  4:10PM



"Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel" is the very grand and very divine documentary on one of the most influential people of the last century. First as the fashion editor for Harper's Bazaar magazine before moving on to Vogue as Editor-In-Chief, Vreeland found inspiration and great beauty from a wide range of unique and unconventional models, clothing, photographers, locations and artists where she brought them forth to the world, demanding that attention be paid.

Born in 1903 as Diana Dalziel in Paris, she was the eldest of two daughters of an American socialite mother and British father. Her relationship with her her mother was complicated due to Diana not being seen as conventionally attractive with her being referred to as an "ugly duckling" by her parent. Although raised amongst high society and luxury, first throughout Europe before the family settled in New York at the beginning of World War I, the young, stylish Diana didn't quite fit in as she gravitated towards thoughts and behavior that would seem unbecoming of someone from her background. Dance was her first passion and after taking ballet lessons during the day, she would be out partying in to the wee hours while enjoying the company of various suitors. Diana settled down after she met Thomas Vreeland, a handsome banker and they were soon wed in 1924. Although she had two sons, Thomas, Jr. and Frederick, shortly after, being a conventional mother didn't hold much interest to her as she preferred to shop, travel and socialize.

In 1937, Carmel Snow, the then-editor of Harper's Bazaar had admired the style of Mrs.Vreeland and asked her to do something for the magazine. "Why Don't You. . ." became a popular column that Vreeland would offer colorful suggestions on a variety of subjects with one of her most eye-raising involved washing your blond child's hair in stale champagne to sustain the color. She soon became an editor as she took fashion and her job very seriously, which created problems for staff members if she felt they lacked her passion. During her time with Harper's, Vreeland helped further the career of a young model, Lauren Bacall by putting her on the cover and would later become a Hollywood actress because of it, launched the work of Richard Avedon as he eventually became chief photographer for the magazine and offered fashion advice to the new First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy.

After twenty-five years with Harper's Bazaar, feeling underpaid and undervalued, Vreeland decided to jump over to Vogue to run the magazine in 1962. Change was in the air and she loved these swinging times as the ideas of beauty was evolving, utilizing the magazine to reflect this. Vreeland stopped using society women as models and began to display ethnic and offbeat looking women such as Penelope Tree and Twiggy who were no longer photographed simply in a studio but actual, exotic destinations around the globe. Performers like Cher and Barbra Streisand, known for their distinctive looks, were championed by putting them on the cover and Rock & roll was embraced in Vogue with Mick Jagger being a favorite of Vreeland's ("Those lips!").

Due to a lengthy period of out-of-control, extravagant spending at the magazine as well as her own advancing years, Vreeland was unceremoniously dumped as the editor at Vogue in 1971. She became depressed and at a loss for a short time before she received an offer that would become the exciting final chapter of her already quite amazing career. As the consultant for the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Vreeland would continue to shake things up with inventive (which were considered quite shocking at the time) programs that are still being done to this day.

"The Eye Has To Travel" was crafted like a scrapbook by first-time co-directors, Mr. Perlmutt and Mrs. Immordino Vreeland (who is married to the subject's grandson but never met her) as they gathered a variety of sources;  television interviews she did in her later years, the recordings with writer, George Plimpton for her autobiography, "D.V." and recollections from some of the people who knew and worked with her such as former models who later became better known as actresses, Ali MacGraw (who actually began as one of Vreeland's personal assistants), Lauren Hutton and Anjelica Huston as well as fashion designers, Diane Von Furstenberg, Calvin Klein and Oscar de la Renta. Nobody claims that she was easy to deal with but they all admired her spirit and her progressive ideas on fashion.

As to be expected from such an eccentric personality, Vreeland theatrically spoke in adjectives and exclamation points, a woman who freely expressed her strong opinions, which was certainly not common in her day. However, the film doesn't dig too deep as it is mostly celebratory and doesn't reveal enough of the true, complex woman. Vreeland freely admits that she only liked to disclose her history as she would have liked it to actually have been or what she refers to as "faction". Her personal life is mostly glossed over although her two surviving children discuss how they were very aware that their mother's work was always her main focus even during the time when her beloved husband was seriously ill.

Even if you may not know (or care) about the difference between Veruschka or Balenciaga, "The Eye Has To Travel" is the fascinating look in to the life of the fashion world's true visionary as you can't help being swept away by the prickly charm of this witty, talented woman.