CinéSalon: DIANA VREELAND: THE EYE HAS TO TRAVEL (Lisa Immordino Vreeland, 2011)
French Institute Alliance Française, Florence Gould Hall
55 East 59th St. between Madison & Park Aves.
Tuesday, April 21, $13, 4:00 & 7:30
Festival runs through May 26
“There’s not many people like her. She’s unique,” photographer David Bailey says about his former boss, Diana Vreeland, in the DVD extras of the wonderful documentary Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel. “You could easily put her in a list of people like Cocteau and, in a funny sort of way, Proust. She was very Proustian in a way. She loved the detail of things, the memory of things,” he adds. The 2011 film, directed and produced by Lisa Immordino Vreeland, who is married to Diana Vreeland’s grandson Alexander, and codirected and edited by Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt (Havana Motor Club) and Frédéric Tcheng (Dior and I, Valentino: The Last Emperor), is a fun and fanciful look inside one of the most important, and entertaining, fashion figures of the twentieth century. Immordino Vreeland focuses on her husband’s grandmother’s extremely influential years as editor of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue and then curating the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Among those sharing stories about the rather eccentric, demanding, intuitive, opinionated, cultured, respected, feared, difficult, loyal, spontaneous, self-aware, critical, and always fashionable woman are designers Oscar de la Renta, Manolo Blahnik, Hubert de Givenchy, Carolina Herrera, Calvin Klein, Pierre Bergé, Anna Sui, and Diane von Furstenberg, models Marisa Berenson, Anjelica Huston, Lauren Hutton, Penelope Tree, and Veruschka von Lehndorff, and former Vreeland assistant Ali MacGraw. There are also marvelous archival clips of television interviews Vreeland did with Dick Cavett, Jane Pauley, and Diane Sawyer, as well as scenes from Stanley Donen’s Funny Face and William Klein’s Who Are You, Polly Magoo?, both of which feature characters inspired by Vreeland. In addition, the film contains voice-over narration (performed by Annette Miller and Jonathan Epstein) based on 1983 recordings made of conversations between Vreeland and George Plimpton when the two were collaborating on her autobiography, D.V. About the only thing lacking in the film is more exploration of Vreeland’s personal life, although some of her children and grandchildren do admit that family did not come first with her. And oh, the photos, by Bailey, Cecil Beaton, Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Bert Stern, and many others; The Eye Has to Travel is chock-full of amazing pictures that reveal Vreeland to be a consummate storyteller who changed the fashion world in remarkably prescient ways.
Everyone has fascinating things to say about Vreeland — including Vreeland herself, who is eminently quotable, her bold, brash, insightful, and funny proclamations instantly memorable — so much so that the above David Bailey opening quotation was taken from the DVD extras so as not to spoil any of the gems in the film itself, which is screening April 21 in the FIAF CinéSalon series “Haute Couture on Film,” part of the French Institute Alliance Française’s third annual “Fashion at Fiaf” festival; Immordino Vreeland will introduce the 7:30 show, and both screenings will be followed by a wine reception. The festival continues through May 26 with such other films as John Cassavetes’s Gloria, Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game, and Jean Negulesco’s How to Marry a Millionaire. “Fashion at Fiaf” also includes talks with Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez of Proenza Schouler, Kate Betts, and Garance Doré and a gallery exhibition of the work of photographer Grégoire Alexandre.