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Home Reviews Cinema reviews Film review: Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel
Film review: Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Tuesday, 18 September 2012 13:12
Diana Vreeland
Director: Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt, Lisa Immordino Vreeland
Cast: Diana Vreeland, Manolo Blahnik, Joel Schumacher
Certificate: 12A

Diana Vreeland once said: "It's not the dress that matters. It's the life you live while wearing it." And Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt's documentary, co-directed by granddaughter Lisa Immordino Vreeland, proves it.

A wealthy girl who grew up in Paris, Diana had everything: clothes, horses, trips to London to attend King Edward's coronation. Fast forward several years and that kid, surrounded by fashion and glamour, was made Fashion Editor of Harper’s Bazaar. Then she took over Vogue. Then... the world – well, as far as some women were concerned.

The Eye Has to Travel peppers her pretty life story with contributions from fashion's high and mighty. Manolo Blahnik. Calvin Klein. Joel Schumacher. That's right. In the world of Diana Vreeland, even the director of Batman and Robin gets a say. Who knew what she made of the Bat Nipples?


But the filmmaker turns out to be one of the best interviewees of the lot. "She would push people’s faults and make it the best thing about them," he explains, with his open-necked shirt and flowing long hair. Then Manolo comes on the screen. “VISION! VISION! SHE HAD VISION!” he cries hysterically.


Part of the joy of this documentary is the way that it captures the enthusiasm and excitement - the sheer luvviness – that surrounded this iconic female. And no one had more enthusiasm than Vreeland herself. She laughs – no, cackles – as she recounts acerbic putdowns and spouts epithets worthy of Oscar Wilde.

She is also surprisingly candid about her desire to reinvent herself after a childhood of being told she wasn’t attractive. And she did exactly that. She had a phenomenal professional life, but that in itself helped to make it acceptable for women to work for a living; she brought fashion to the fore of society, mixing it with media, news and celebrity in a way that has defined magazine culture ever since. It’s like watching The Devil Wears Prada – but with actual character development and serious life lessons.

Insights from photographer David Bailey and other colleagues are careful not to sugar-coat such an influential figure, while the younger Vreeland behind the camera nails the glossiness of the time with some sumptuous montages, cutting photos and magazine spreads together in a flurry of attractive compositions. One brief piece of animation towards the end suggests the project could have taken a bolder approach, while the final third is in sore need of more depth, but an end product that's above all stylish and slick? Diana Vreeland would no doubt approve.

“It’s not about giving people they want – it’s about giving them what they don’t know they want,” observes one onlooker. You may not think you want to see a documentary about a fashion editor and socialite, but Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel knows better. It shows you the dress - and the life that was lived while wearing it. And on that superficial level at least, It’s fabulous.