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Originally published Thursday, October 18, 2012 at 3:01 PM

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'Diana Vreeland' is no showstopper but still a pleasure to watch

"Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel" is an intriguing but unimaginative documentary about the legendary fashion editor that combines interviews conducted by writer George Plimpton with remembrances by family and colleagues.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 3 stars

'Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel,' a documentary by Lisa Immordino Vreeland. 84 minutes. Rated PG-13 for some nude images. Harvard Exit.

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The secret to life, according to fashion maven Diana Vreeland? "Arrange to be born in Paris. After that, everything follows quite naturally."

"Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel" is an intriguing portrait of a true original; you only wish the movie had half the color and verve of its subject. The ever-quotable Vreeland, in her long career, was fashion editor of Harper's Bazaar (from 1936 to 1962, an eternity in fashion years), followed by a decade as editor of Vogue and a third act at the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she created vibrant, popular exhibitions until her death in 1989.

The documentary, directed by Vreeland's granddaughter-in-law Lisa Immordino Vreeland, makes substantial use of a series of interviews taped by writer George Plimpton as he worked with Vreeland on her memoirs in the '80s. Her voice, raspy and emphatic, takes over the film; sitting in her living room, decorated in a dizzying array of red floral prints (she describes it as "a garden in hell"), she's a crimson-lipsticked empress holding court. Between excerpts, we hear remembrances from photographers, editors, models and family members; one sums her up by saying, "She simply didn't think like other people."

Except for an unexpected (and slightly odd) foray into animation at the very end, "Diana Vreeland" doesn't get creative with the documentary form, and that's a shame; you sense that the film's subject would have appreciated something a little more outlandish. This is, after all, a lady who once recommended rinsing blond children's hair in "dead Champagne" and wearing purple-velvet mittens with everything. She speaks in the film about filling her editorial pages with "ravishing personalities"; of how fashion is "part of the daily air"; of how, when offered her first job at Harper's Bazaar, her reply was, "But I've never dressed before lunch!" For those fascinated by style — or just by mesmerizing personalities — "Diana Vreeland" is a pleasure.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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