DIANA VREELAND: THE EYE HAS TO TRAVEL

Diana Vreeland:  The Eye has to Travel

 

This documentary about the ‘Empress of Fashion’ former Harpers Bazaar and American Vogue editor Diana Vreeland reveals little about the complexities of the woman behind the myth and begs the question whether there was actually any depth behind the polished surface of this grande-dame of twentieth century fashion. It is nonetheless an interesting look at a woman whose influence reigned supreme and whose abrasive character was satirised and caricatured several times in both film and print.

Being about fashion it was never likely to be a film that looked beyond the surface however and the usual suspects- David Bailey, Warhol assistant Bob Colacello and models Penelope Tree and Veruschka- are trundled out to give predictable enough sound-bites praising Vreeland as a pioneering visionary in her field but also an abrasive and not very likeable human being. Her lack of emotion is apparent in interview footage and avoidance of any personal matters is accompanied bya a haughty froideur and a swift change of subject. Her sons are also swift in condemning her whilst outlining her maternal shortcomings and a portrait of a woman obsessed with her career emerges.

Her career spanned several decades but it is her work with American Vogue which she will mainly be remembered for and was probably her most influential time. Quick to cotton on to the cultural change of the sixties and use her position at Vogue to bring together the rapidly colliding worlds of music, art, fashion, literature and film amongst others to help present that era defining epoch’s rapidly changing attitudes. Reminding her of her youth in the roaring twenties- the closest decade in her estimation to the swirl of the sixties- she embraced the energy and fashions with gusto and became entrenched in the various scenes these changes were engendering.

By the time the seventies were ushered in Vreeland seemed out of step with the times and was fired from Vogue and after a period of disenchantment brought on by this rejection took up a place as costume consultant at the Metropolitan Museum of  Art in New York. She again triumphed  despite having no regard for authenticity or accuracy in her presentation of historical artefacts but her renegade approach was a huge success with the public and the Museum had record sales and attendance figures during her tenure there.

 The Eye has to Travel  is an interesting documentary about a fascinating woman. Her friendships with notables such as Wallis Simpson and Coco Chanel assure her position in history as a woman of great influence and as David Bowie’s ‘Lady Grinning Soul’ plays over the closing animated sequence it becomes clear that even if some of the statements about her are overly grandiose she probably wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Diana Vreeland:The Eye Has to Travel is showing at the Filmhouse and Nationwide from Friday September 21st

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