Raconteuse, epigrammatist, mythomaniac and peerless fashion editor Diana Vreeland (1903-89) might have loved words as much as she loved Balenciaga. As Harold Koda of the Met's Costume Institute, for which Vreeland served as a special consultant from 1973 until her death, memorably says in this often charming non-fiction bauble, "I don't think she had the average person's relationship to the English language." At its best, Diane Vreeland The Eye Has to Travel — the first film by Lisa Immordino Vreeland, who is married to her subject's grandson Alexander — showcases D.V.'s spectacular gifts for dramatic presentation and proclamation, as evident in her various TV interviews throughout the decades and present-day remembrances by those who worked with her. (David Bailey, who photographed frequently for Vreeland during her 1962-71 tenure as editor-in-chief at Vogue, recalls her dismissal of his arduous shoot of Penelope Tree: "There's no languor in the lips!") At its worst, the documentary further indulges its own nepotism: The director gratuitously films her young daughter reading aloud from her great-grandmother's outré "Why Don't You?" column from Harper's Bazaar. But the outsized ideas, creativity and spirit of this birdlike, unconventional-looking woman — called "my ugly little monster" by her mother, Vreeland resembles John Hurt in a jet-black wig — still dominate a project occasionally lacking the same attributes.
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