How to convey the life story of a woman so much larger than life? As Lisa Immordino Vreeland moved through this daunting process, collecting materials and conducting research for an innovative book that would commemorate her already-immortalized grandmother-in-law, Diana Vreeland, she was struck with the answer. A film. Only a multi-dimensional platform would truly reveal the subtleties of Mrs. Vreeland’s persona and character.
Cut to: three years later. The documentary “Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel” premieres at the Venice International Film Festival and the highly-selective Telluride Film Festival in 2011, painting an intimate portrait of a woman we all thought we knew. The film’s most compelling moments are not the high-drama of her career or the celebration of her imagination and singular looks, but rather those that reveal her personal history, vulnerabilities, steely determination and divine triumph.
With deference, Immordino Vreeland unflinchingly charts Mrs. Vreeland’s challenging childhood, fraught with parental strain, insecurities and academic failures, her self-preservation and ultimately her break through — reinventing herself as the dazzling, adventurous woman who would win the heart of ravishing bachelor Reed Vreeland. Wending its way through the Belle Époque in Paris, NYC’s Roaring ‘20s and London’s Swinging ‘60s, the film sparkles with game-changing moments in the history of fashion while still embracing weighty themes such as the evolution of women into roles of power and prominence.
Mrs. Vreeland’s own voice — that fabled mix of polished sophistication and street jargon — tells much of the story, coupled with insights and anecdotes from colleagues and friends like Andy Warhol, Diane Sawyer, Manolo Blahnik and Veruschka. First-time director Immordino Vreeland enlisted the talents of Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt and Frédéric Tcheng, the critically-acclaimed editors of “Valentino: The Last Emperor.” Together they crafted hundreds of hours of archival footage, interviews, photography, graphics, animation and other visual and musical devices into a seamless collage that is already being touted as a living work of art.
Lisa Immordino Vreeland
A talk with Lisa Immordino Vreeland about her project Diana Vreeland: The eye has to travel"
Why a film on Diana Vreeland?
“Because she was a true original, and I think people are striving for originality,” says Lisa Immordino Vreeland, the director of Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel, a poignant documentary on the legendary editor of Vogue which will be screened tomorrow, September 3rd at 5.30 p.m., at the Venice Film Festival.
“I strongly believe,” the director continues, “that the legacy Mrs. Vreeland left behind is extremely strong and deep, and goes beyond being a “mere” fashion revolutionary: she really helped change social history and emancipated women. Her life, which spanned 1903 until 1989, is by all means a vivid portrait of the XX century.”
A society lady who invented a new profession – the fashion editor- Diana Vreeland was able to capture the zeitgeist and reflect the major upheavals – from the Depression to the sexual revolution – in the pages of fashion magazines.
Curiosity and eccentricity, passion and discipline were her best allies since her beginning at Harper’s Bazaar, where she worked from 1936-1962. Vreeland’s fantastic collaborations with photographers such as Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Lillian Bassman and Richard Avedon infused her unique and unorthodox vision.
In 1962 she landed at Vogue, and made it the most successful publication on the newsstand. She interpreted the freedom and the energy of the Sixties in unforgettable stories featuring unconventional models like Twiggy, Veruschka, and Penelope Tree.
Abruptly fired in 1972, she was able to reinvent herself as a fashion consultant at The Costume Institute at the Met where, until her death, she organized the seminal exhibitions The world of Balenciaga, Romantic and Glamorous Hollywood Design, The Glory of Russian Costume, Diaghilev: Costumes and Designs of the Ballets Russes and Yves Saint Laurent: 25 Years of Design.
The narrative of the documentary film focuses on different periods of D.V.’s private life and carrier.
Interviews with her sons Tim and Frecky, her grandsons Nicky and Alexander ( Lisa’s husband) are juxtaposed to conversations with people who collaborated with her including Ali McGraw (who was her assistant at H.B.), Anjelica Huston (discovered in the late’60’s during her realm at Vogue) and Harold Koda who worked with her at the Costume Institute in the 70’s.
The director, who previously worked in fashion and is making her debut behind the camera, also brought back Mrs. Vreeland’s unforgettable voice in tape interviews, including a lengthy session recorded recorded with George Plimpton, and very rare footages.
“The eye has to travel” , which is a quotation from Diana Vreeland’s book Allure, was chosen by Lisa as the title for this documentary and for a new publication she created, released by Abrams this October.
“The idea started three years ago: I first realized that there were no good books on her, except the two she wrote herself – the aforementioned Allure and the autobiography D.V.” she explains.
Since she has been extremely influential, I decided to put together a visual publication, with a lot of unseen images she created for H.B., Vogue and the Costume Institute.
It was while I was researching for the book, that the idea of a documentary came along naturally: the two projects are interwoven, and they are meant to be a tribute to an extraordinary personality.
Lisa Immordino Vreeland is also planning a special exhibition on D.V. curated by Maria Luisa Frisa and Judith Clark, which will take place at Palazzo Fortuny in Venice next March.
“It will be very conceptual and we will try to show the passions that motivated Vreeland’s life and work,” she concludes.
“The title will be the same:” my hope is that our eyes will travel too, because of what she gave us.”
Video interview and text Grazia D'Annunzio
Filmed by Tommaso Cardile
Editing Max Finotti
THANKS TO GLOSS STUDIO
During the Venice Film Festival, Tod's sponsors the preview of the film "Diana Vreeland: The eye has to travel"