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Diana Vreeland documentary well-tailored to its subject

Posted 3:16pm on Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012

PG-13 (nude images); 86 min.

Charismatic, imperious and quick-witted, Diana Vreeland ruled in the world of couture and cutting-edge culture for more than 50 years as the editor of Harper's Bazaar, then Vogue, from which she was unceremoniously fired in 1971.

Remarkably, much of that sizzling sensibility was caught on film and has been stylishly stitched together with her personal history in the scrumptious new documentary Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel.

Her story, as much a portrait of an early-day feminist as that of a fashion maven, traces a career that got its start in the '20s and was winding down just as the second wave of the women's movement was gaining traction, ushered in by Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique in 1963.

Under Vreeland's reign -- she was dubbed the "empress of fashion" for a reason -- the magazines she edited became a force for inclusion; she used models of all nationalities and sent photographers for fashion shoots to developing countries. She embraced the avant-garde and, when it came along, the rock 'n' roll ethos and its stars.

The editor's life and legacy come alive in the documentary, directed by a trio that includes Lisa Immordino Vreeland (she married a grandson but never met the matriarch), Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt and Frederic Tcheng. The movie is filled with rare footage, photos and interviews with close friends and relatives that might not have been possible for anyone not in the immediate family.

There was a price to be paid for all that success, and interviews with her sons in particular touch on some of the complexities of their relationships. But for the most part, Vreeland's psyche is left alone. As to the rest of it, the filmmakers let her have her say.

Exclusive: Landmark Magnolia, Dallas; Angelika Plano

-- Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times

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