Friday, September 14, 2012


It's been rather a long time since we talked about Diana Vreeland here, hmmm? In fact this year has been quite DV intensive for me, as Lisa Immordino Vreeland (who is married to DV's grandson Alexander - who I met! Wonderful suit, excellent shoes, lovely man) has been rolling out her project on DV: The Eye Has to Travel. First, I missed a screening of the film back in February, then I went to Venice to see the exhibition at the Fortuny museum. I then, through being away or unavailable missed a whole load of further screenings, bought the book, perused it, missed another couple of screenings, went to a talk on DV hosted by Alexander Vreeland and the wonderful Justine Picardie; who it would be announced just days later is the new Editor-in-Chief of UK Harper's Bazaar, which is amazing, thrilling news that DV would approve of greatly I'm sure. A very apt appointment indeed. (It is now amusing to recollect myself that evening going, "So what have you been up to lately Justine? Are you working on anything interesting?" when the epic news was about to be announced. She was the soul of discretion!)

But the film. Never has a film screening so eluded me - it was like a sick joke. Every time I was away, or I missed the email, or I couldn't go - until a few days ago I squeezed into one of the final press screenings prior to the release of the film next week.

If you're reading this blog then the chances are that you're more than familiar with the world of DV. The film tells her story, charmingly, and if you're a DV freak comme moi and have heard a lot of those stories before, it's lovely to hear them straight from the horse's mouth - like the languor in the lips story from David Bailey and Penelope Tree, both still giggling and wide eyed with disbelief/frustration/awe in the recollection of it. What I find fantastic is that for people who were not previously DV freaks this will all be new - it will, to paraphrase DV, "knock them in the eyeballs, give them what they don't know they want yet." Finally, everyone will get what/who I've been going on about for the past twenty years! (Dies happy.)

Lisa Immordino Vreeland has said that in researching the book, she realised that DV's particularly visual story needed a three-dimensional visual platform to be properly conveyed. As the film begins there is a fabulous montage, kind of a tumbr-esque sketchbook collage with pages of her work mixed with snippets of interview, which is very effective. The film is pieced together from the recordings of DV talking to George Plimpton when compiling her memoir DV, which are available to watch online, but in very bad quality. There are some parts that are DV, others taken from the memoir are voiced by actress Annette Miller, who does a pretty good job. There is archive footage of DV mixed with recollections from family, friends and former employees. There is a tantalising snippet of early home video taken at the family's upstate NY home in Brewster. I would have loved to see more of that, but it probably doesn't exist.

I'm glad that the second generation has taken this on. The impression I have is that it was not easy to be the sons of an icon, but as Alexander Vreeland said, it was fun to be her grandson, so the distance of a generation makes it a very different film perhaps. But you get a hint of the strong underlying emotions when DV's son Frederick (Frecky) talks about her never acknowledging his success in his military career. Totally reminding me of Granny Dragon there, maybe that's why I picked up on it. The English stiff upper lip (DV has said she received a very British upbringing from her much adored father - no outward emotion) has a lot to answer for. But back to work: watching the film there is no denying DV's major influence on fashion, on media, on culture, on how we digest and consume creative content in general. The film shows this very well, actually just lays it out like a fact. There's no need to shout about it: There. You have all the pages with Lauren Bacall, Anjelica Houston, Veruschka, Penelope Tree, the first photo of Mick Jagger that UK Vogue turned down first, the Irving Penn flowers, Truman Capote's In Cold Blood... She saw it coming: the twenties, the sixties, the cultural revolution - and she was able to channel the times for the public to understand and be inspired by.

Woven through all this is DV as self-creation. Of taking what was an unlikely start and through sheer creative force and imagination, making of herself something unique and irreplaceable.

One DV quote from the film I had never heard before. It's from the George Plimpton interviews but I hadn't remembered it. She says,

"There's only one very good life, and that's the life that you know you want and you make it yourself."

{The Eye Has to Travel is released in the UK next Friday 21 September. Here's the trailer. If you're in London there's a premiere screening at Curzon Mayfair on Wednesday 19 September, plus a Q&A with the director Lisa Immordino Vreeland}

Bonus! In honour of the release of The Eye Has to Travel I'm conducting a special, once in a blue moon edition of Ask DV. If you need to be reminded of how it works, see here. Get your questions in to The Oracle now!


earworm said...

hurrah for the return of ask DV!
i'm really looking forward to watching the doc. Ive seen the trailer countless times already. First time I heard her voice and somehow it felt like i knew it all along.
I have to thank you for getting me hooked, i got her biography a couple of years ago and been obsessed ever since x

Felicia S. said...

That was my favorite quote of that entire film, because it's the only thing (sometimes) that keeps me sharp as a creative person.