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Fashion maven Diana Vreeland has the most interesting film this week, not Parker or Hansel and Gretel

She promoted the bikini and blue jeans, 60s pop music and style. Diana Vreeland is fêted in a lively new documentary.

There’s choice upon choice this week, thanks largely to two special series. The Ridge is closing and presenting 10 days of great movies at a bargain price. Also, more of Canada’s Top 10 are screening at the Cinematheque.

But a biography of a magazine editor tops my list, high above another Jason Statham bone-cruncher or that updated Hansel & Gretel.

Here’s the list:

Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel:  3 ½ stars

Wagner’s Dream:   3

Canada’s Top 10:  various

The Ridge closing series:  various

Hansel & Gretel Witch Hunters:   2

Parker:   2

Movie 43:  --

 

DIANA VREELAND: THE EYE HAS TO TRAVEL:  Because of The Devil Wears Prada and at least one documentary, we know all about Anna Wintour, the editor of Vogue Magazine. This film celebrates a predecessor who was just as imperious and maybe even more influential. And was also fictionally portrayed in the movies, in a French film and as the magazine editor who discovers Audrey Hepburn in Funny Girl.  There are generous clips from both in this fizzy and energetic documentary about the woman who was fashion editor at Harpers Bazaar for 25 years and then editor-in-chief at Vogue from 1963 to 1971. That’s the height of the 60s Youthquake, as she called it and championed it in her magazine. Too much, it seems, because she was eventually fired.

 

The film charts a remarkable life. People like Nijinsky used to come round in Paris where she was born and lived as a child. Later she sold lingerie in London to, among others, Wallis Simpson, and became a dancer and a socialite in New York. At Harper’s she discovered Lauren Bacall. At Vogue she promoted Twiggy.  She became friends with Hollywood stars and advised Jackie Kennedy. Pretty good for someone whose own mother called her ugly. The film is not so much about fashion but about overcoming blows like that to one’s self-confidence and living with spirit and imagination. We get lively bits of her philosophy in clips from two TV interviews and through an actor’s voice re-creating a taped memoir. And there are comments from a remarkable cast: photographers like Richard Avedon and David Bailey, co-workers like Ali McGraw, who recalls how demanding she was, and designers like Calvin Klein, Anna Sui and Manolo Blahnik, who roars about her “veeesion”.  Except for two sons pointing out how distant a mother she was, there’s very little that’s critical in here. Not surprising. The wife of one of her grandsons made the film.  Ivan Sayers, Vancouver’s foremost fashion historian, will speak at Friday’s screening. (VanCity Theatre) 3 ½ out of 5

In tandem with …

WAGNER’S DREAM: Robert Lepage made a splash in New York with his staging of Wagner’s mammoth Ring Cycle at the Metropolitan Opera. Many far from the Big Apple saw it beamed live into movie theatres. The stagecraft, principally a giant machine with moveable planks, amazed some; irritated others. This fascinating film affords a close look at how it all came about. 

We hear how Lepage  got the idea on a trip to Iceland and then watch his people tinker with it at length in his Quebec workshop. He says Wagner couldn’t stage it like this because he didn’t have the technology. We see it moved to the Met, watch  the rehearsals and feel the tension on opening night for each of the four operas.  Brunhilda trips her first time on the machine. Both the conductor and Sigfried have to be replaced. The Met’s director sees it as an attendance boost and fears he’ll be run out of the country if it fails. The film is chock full of both the joy and the tension of putting on a risky show. (VanCity) 3 out of 5

Wednesday night, there’s an extra: MARS & AVRIL, a science fiction film LePage produced and also appears in.  A musician old-timer and a craftsman become obsessed with the same woman in a futuristic Montreal.  However, she gets lost in a virtual world on her way to Mars. The film is directed by Cirque du Soleil alumnus Martin Villeneuve from his own graphic novel.

CANADA’S TOP 10: More of our best from last year are on screen at the Cinematheque this weekend. They’re named best by organizers of the Toronto International Film Festival.

Friday  and Saturday you can catch Deepa Mehtah’s and Salman Rushdie MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN. She directed. He wrote it. Magic realism and class differences illuminate 60 years of history in India.

Also on Saturday it’s India again with THE WORLD BEFORE HER. Two women take widely different paths to establish their identity in this forceful documentary.

And also on Friday there’s STILL, which is new to Vancouver and explores similar emotional territory as Amour, which is currently playing in town. James Cromwell and Geneviève Bujold play an elderly New Brunswick couple, still in love after 60 years of marriage. When she suffers dementia, he has to fight city hall to build her a house.

Visit the website http://thecinematheque.ca/ for more information on these and next weekend’s films.

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