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'Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel': 3.5 stars

Samuel Goldwyn Films present

Samuel Goldwyn Films present "Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel" a film about fashion editor of Harpers Bazaar Diana Vreeland. Credit: James Karales

Pizzazz. Diana Vreeland used that word a lot discussing others -- yet it aptly describes herself when words like "extraordinary" or "exasperating" don't quite suffice.

The late, legendary fashion editor comes alive in "Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel," an awkwardly titled but engaging documentary.

First-time director Lisa Immordino Vreeland (married to DV's grandson) has amassed an impressive collection of interview clips, but it's her clever way of structuring the tale that adds real drama and emotional punch.

She starts with Vreeland's silver-spoon youth in Paris, and a rhino-hunting mother who never let Vreeland forget she was unattractive. Despite mommy dearest, Vreeland grows into a strong, stylish woman, marries, has kids and a high-powered career (first as a fashion editor at Harper's Bazaar, then running Vogue and consulting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art).

She attended coronations, rode with Buffalo Bill and watched Charles Lindbergh fly overhead from her home in Brewster, N.Y., on his historic trans-Atlantic flight.

At which point astute LIers may ask: How could Lindbergh, who took off from Roosevelt Field en route to Paris, wind up flying over . . . Putnam County? Turns out Vreeland fibbed. Occasionally. (She loved a good story.)

She also (for real) discovered Lauren Bacall, advised Jackie Kennedy and promoted the bikini. Her sons, friends, designers and some unexpected colleagues (Ali MacGraw, Anjelica Huston) offer memories of an inspiring woman who lived life on her own terms . . . till the director weaves in more troubling, poignant anecdotes, reminding us how such stylish living comes at a cost.

Yet Vreeland remained unapologetic.

"Style is everything," she said. "It helps you get out of bed in the morning . . . down the stairs. It is everything. And I'm not talking about the clothes."

For Vreeland, style was about more than wardrobe. Life was to be lived with, well, pizzazz -- or it wasn't worth living at all.

PLOT The rise, lies and outrageous life of fashion icon Diana Vreeland RATING PG-13 (some nude images)


PLAYING AT Manhasset Cinemas; Malverne Cinema 4; Cinema Arts Centre, Huntington (where director Vreeland will appear and give a Q/A session after the 7:30 showing on Saturday, Oct. 20)

BOTTOM LINE A lively documentary about a woman who makes Anna Wintour look like a pussycat

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