Diana Vreeland: the Eye Has to Travel (PG)


The life of Diana Vreeland, one of the 20th century's great style arbiters and taste-makers, is captured in this engaging and occasionally droll patchwork documentary. Vreeland (1903-1989) was born into privilege – her parents knew Diaghilev and Nijinsky – but missed out on a formal education.

It didn't matter: her gift was her visionary sense of style, and a knack for being in the right place at the right time. She knew Belle Epoque Paris as a child, danced herself dizzy in New York during the 1920s and later, as editor-in-chief of Vogue, enjoyed the full swing of 1960s London.

No beauty herself, Vreeland had a brilliant eye for the beautiful in others, discovering Lauren Bacall, launching Twiggy and advising Jackie O. She understood line and colour as keenly as any designer.

Imperious and instinctive, with no great regard for factual accuracy, she was probably a nightmare to work for, though set against that is her exuberant appetite for fun and a near-epigrammatic concision ("The best thing about London was... Paris").

Film-maker Lisa Immordino Vreeland (wife of Diana's grandson) pays her subject full due without beatifying her: the flaws are acknowledged along with the flair. And in Vreeland's dramatic vocal delivery she's on to a winner. Who else, recalling Hitler on a visit to the Munich Opera House, would have remarked, "That moustache was hilarious."