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Lucire’s view: The September Issue


NEWS
Filed by Lucire staff/September 29, 2009/10.07




Above Stills from The September Issue.

Vogue editor Anna Wintour is likened to the Pope in R. J. Cutler’s documentary The September Issue. With a divine omnipotence, a single-arched eyebrow reduces flamboyant designers to stuttering school boys. A flick of her bony, bangled wrist condemns a $50,000 photo shoot to the scrap heap.
   Her powers are heralded throughout the world’s fashion industry. But with this respect comes fear, for Anna Wintour is also abrupt, rude and often downright mean.
   The September Issue was filmed over nine months from inside Vogue’s New York headquarters in 2007. It chronicles the final days bringing together the September issue—an almighty tome that surpasses all others in size, stature and significance.
   In 2007, the September Vogue informed 13 million women across America that beige was the new tan, jackets were the new coats and the latest trend was now last season’s trash.
   This is ripe material for a fly-on-the-wall study. Imagine the drama, cat-fights and absurd situations inside this high-pressured, but well clad, environment. Vogue, one suspects, is not your typical inner-city office.
   But Cutler and his crew fail to capitalize on the richness of their surroundings. The footage uncovers a myriad of stories itching to be told. Instead, the film-makers seem overwhelmed by choice. The result is a series of half-baked ideas that introduce, but do not explore, these piquant narrative strands.
   There is, for example, the taut relationship between Anna and Vogue’s creative director, Grace Coddington. Grace is amongst the industry’s most acclaimed creative heads and is the artistic vision to Anna’s business-savvy management.
   Their relationship embodies the tension between art and commerce, emotion and business, personal and professional demands. These are intriguing issues that deserve time for deeper analysis. But the camera moves all too quickly, merely skimming the surface of issues that underpin office dynamics.
   Grace’s presence in the film overshadows Anna as the key player. With her fly-away orange hair and history to tell, Grace is far more interesting and personable than the fiercely guarded Anna.
   The film manages to capture glimpses of the real Anna Wintour. She can be polite, caring and funny. She falls short of revealing personal detail, but tears spring to her eyes when she mentions her over-achieving siblings and their attitude towards the fashion industry.
   The hand-held camera creates a sense of capturing unscripted reality. Much like the television series The Office, the documentary captures awkward silences, unintentional slips and tell-tale body language.
   The September Issue offers a refreshingly honest view of the fashion industry. It downplays the glamour and opulence in favour for the real people behind the magazine. It captures them at work, without make-up and without free designer goodies. Montages of runway shows, models and enormous wardrobes make an obligatory appearance, but the documentary does not rest on flashy imagery to sustain the audience’s attention for ninety minutes.
   The September Issue offers light entertainment and will undoubtedly appeal to female audiences worldwide. But for those expecting something more substantial will find its lack of direction wholly unsatisfying.—Jolene Williams

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