(out of 5)
One story told about the first and foremost fashion editor of the century delighted me the most: taken to a screening of Chinatown, packed into a Harlem theater without a single seat vacant, Diana Vreeland sticks up her index finger in the middle of the movie and announces, in very distinct tones, “Isn’t! Jack! Attractive!” When she saw something she liked, she could not help but announce her pleasure. In her work, first as fashion editor of Harper’s Bazaar, later as editor of Vogue and finally as director of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, Vreeland not only pronounced her pleasure for personalities and culture, she co-opted them into the pages of the magazines she oversaw or onto the displays she designed. Hers was not an obsession with fashion but a dedication to style, her magazine stories not just advertisements for expensive labels but opportunities for readers to explore the world through personality and expression. Director Lisa Immordino Vreeland (granddaughter-in-law to her subject) has compiled a series of interviews with friends and colleagues of the late, great, real-life Auntie Mame, their charmed commentary splayed over an endless stream of images from the woman’s massive career. As an added bonus, we also hear excerpts from her memoirs, with voice actors stepping in for Vreeland and co-author George Plimpton which gives narration to aspects of her private life, including her childhood in Europe (she was born in Paris, which she said was the smart thing to do for anyone who wanted to have her kind of success) and her home life with husband and two sons. It’s not a film that ever goes very deep; out of respect for her relative, the director only barely scratches the surfaces when it comes to examining the woman’s contradictions (it’s quite possible that her absence from her sons’ lives was more significant than they let on, or they’re too old to be vindictive now), but it entertains you far too much to let the absence of muck-raking matter in the slightest. Vreeland was not the most beautiful woman who ever lived, and she never became a millionaire, but she knew what she liked and she made everyone like her; watching her speak for herself is one of the greatest pleasures of this glossy, energetic documentary that celebrates a true cultural icon.
Directed by Lisa Immordino Vreeland
Cinematography by Cristobal Zanartu
Produced by Lisa Immordino Vreeland
Music by Paul Cantelon