Raconteuse, epigrammatist, and mythomaniac, peerless fashion editor Diana Vreeland (1903-89) might have loved words as much as she loved Balenciaga. As Harold Koda of the Met's Costume Institute, for which Vreeland served as a special consultant from 1973 until her death, memorably says in this often charming nonfiction bauble: "I don't think she had the average person's relationship to the English language." At its best, this first film by Lisa Immordino Vreeland, who is married to her subject's grandson Alexander, showcases D.V.'s spectacular gifts for dramatic presentation and proclamation, as evident in her various TV interviews throughout the decades and present-day remembrances by those who worked with her. (David Bailey, who photographed frequently for Vreeland during her 1962 — 71 tenure as editor in chief at Vogue, recalls her dismissal of his arduous shoot of Penelope Tree: "There's no languor in the lips!") At its worst, the documentary further indulges its own nepotism: The director gratuitously films her young daughter reading aloud from her great-grandmother's outré "Why Don't You?" column from Harper's Bazaar. But the outsize ideas, creativity, and spirit of this birdlike, unconventional-looking woman — called "my ugly little monster" by her mother, Vreeland resembles John Hurt in a jet-black wig — still dominate a project occasionally lacking the same attributes.
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