Friday, January 22, 2010
The September 2007 issue of Vogue weighed nearly five pounds (840 pages), and was the single largest issue of a magazine ever published. As an avid lover of fashion and all things sartorial I was dying to go watch this documentary and thankfully it has finally reached our shores. So last night, a friend and I headed to the V&A Waterfront (Cape Town) last night with a friend of mine hoping for the all access exposé on the story of legendary Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour and her larger-than-life team of editors creating the issue and ruling the world of fashion. Simply, The September Issue is a wonderful film with vast appeal starring Anna Wintour, Grace Coddington, Andre Leon Talley, Patrick Demarchelier, Mario Testino and Oscar De La Renta amongst others. Giving us everything we have come to expect from our fashion-centered programming and more, we are left with the sense that we have uncovered a mystery. Sadly, this feeling is a bit naïve, those going to see R.J. Cutler's subtle, glib & supple documentary hoping to peek beneath the formidable bangs of Anna Wintour, will be disappointed: This is a film whose ambitions range wider than the contents of her guarded psyche, but that’s not saying it isn’t beaded with several amusing Anna moments. All very consistent with her ice queen reputation, Wintour is often disconcertingly direct and frequently unfeeling, though not without a dry sense of humor. Her arctic imperiousness has a way of creating the most masochistic deference, a dynamic that R.J Cutler superficially explores and at times becomes prone to in his documentary because when it's all over, we still don't know who Wintour really is or the key inner workings that have turned Vogue into a fashion bible- I felt like the film reduced Vogue’s success, to its powerful editor in chief who is incredibly influential in the fashion industry and having an inordinate amount of money from Condé Nast, the parent company that owns Vogue, to make the shoots as glossy as possible, surely this can’t just be it. So while it doesn't scratch much below the surface, The September Issue is still an entertainingly voyeuristic glimpse into the corridors of the head of the fashion train– personally the documentary’s breakout star is Vogue creative director, 69 year old Grace Coddington, a former model whose plain appearance and frumpy clothing belie her genius for fashion. She counters her boss every chance she gets and provides the film with a much-needed emotional center.