This past week was a culture cram, as we previewed three entirely different but equally entertaining films currently available in our area.

First up – spoiler alert – this one is probably trending a bit far from the main stream  –  Swan Lake – is the 2011 filmed performance of a contemporary interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake as seen through the eyes of choreographer Matthew Bourne.  While it may be the longest running ballet in London’s  West End (since its introduction in 1995,) this unsettling adaptation was described by one reviewer as more creepily inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds than by the Bolshoi.  Ah ha!  Now I understand…and I couldn’t agree more.

As one of our party opined: “The dancers were far better than the choreography given them, and seven moves were crammed in, when four would have sufficed with more grace.”  I found it inconsistent at best, and likened it more to a poor imitation of what the great American theater director, Peter Sellars, (who is so well known for his brilliant contemporary interpretations of classic operas) might have done.   Bourne also felt the need to throw in every clichéd red Freudian slip, including some thinly veiled references to Oedipus  – or was that Cougar Town?  Enough said.  Am I recommending it at 2+ hours?  Ummmm, maybe not.

Diana Vreeland –  The Eye Has to Travel is an exquisite documentary that chronicles, in her own intriguing words, the remarkable life’s work of the editor of  Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue  Magazines: the enigmatic Diana Vreeland –  one of 20th century’s most intriguing, contemporary fashion icons.  Anyone who ever perused these magazines in the sixties will remember her unique perspective, which ushered in a “fashion as art, and more” philosophy that went on to create its own billion dollar impact on our lives.  I doubt it’s ever been surpassed.

As one Daily Beast reviewer so succinctly put it: “It would not be an exaggeration to say that Diana Vreeland is single-handedly responsible for the pop-culture meme that great fashion editors are flamboyant and eccentric, possess the temperaments of tyrants, and are prone to mysterious pronouncements about pink being the navy blue of India.”   But perhaps Jackie O stated it more clearly in her observation,  which was quoted in the LA Times review:  “To say that Diana Vreeland has dealt only with fashion trivializes what she has done. She has commented on the times.”  

Diana’s career (everyone pronounced her name dee-ah-na, in that mad sixties-affected way) culminated in her final, crowning accomplishment as consultant to the Costume Institute of the  Metropolitan Museum of Art,  1971-84, where she mounted twelve exhibitions, making each one’s opening a glittering society  “happening,” much to the chagrin of the staid museum directors.

The film is largely narrated by her interviewer George Plimpton and produced by her granddaughter, Lisa Immordino Vreeland.  It’s a nostalgic trip through the freshness of fashion and celebrity and art and the avant-garde –  that spun  mid-20th century innocence into a whirl of Lights!  Color! Action!   After my Pucci mini dress and Twiggy haircut, I was never the same.  Were you?

Ben Affleck does it again!  Argo tops a body of work that just keeps getting better with each offering.  Affleck is a master story teller…but we knew that after Good Will Hunting and Gone Baby Gone.  We confirmed it after Our Town.  With Argo we’ve become fervent aficionados.

From the opening scene, to the closing credits, you’re committed – not a wasted word, not a meandering scene, not a moment of confusion.  This thrilling, true account of the covert plot to rescue six Americans stranded in the Iranian revolution erupting at the end of Carter’s Presidency, has you clinching your fists and holding your breath, even though you totally know they are all going to get out.  The masterful pacing is just right and John Goodman and Alan Arkin bring the absolute perfect dollop of over-the-top comic relief as fictitious Hollywood film types who sign on for the caper  – and we sure need the relief, because this one will have your stomach in knots.

I was exhausted!  Best film of the year.