Friday, June 12, 2009

The September Issue

I'm not sure if the doco The September Issue is going to get a cinema release in Australia but I was lucky enough to see it last night as part of the Sydney Film Festival.

Even though I tend to enjoy most fashion flicks (and please, the woeful Sex and the City Movie does not count) they generally get panned by reviewers who don't really 'get' the frilly world of frocks, but I suspect this will be quite well received by audiences, fashionista or no, as it touches on so much more than clothes.

The September Issue is a fabulous fly on the wall documentary which follows US Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour for six months as she and her staff pull together the September 2007 issue of the magazine, still the biggest issue in it's history. The documentary maker was given unprecedented access into the hallowed cubicles of Vogue and I loved seeing how the issue was pulled together.

Anna Wintour has a reputation as an ice queen and this film will do nothing to dispel that perception. Meryl Streep's Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada was so freakishly spot on that if you'd put her in a blonde bob they could be one and the same person. She is unrelentingly critical, seems to make her decisions as to which photos and clothes make the pages on a completely arbitrary basis and doesn't demonstrate any great passion for the fashion she reigns over, although surely she must feel it.

What amazed me was that the hyperbole about her influence in the fashion industry seems not be hyperbole at all, with her silent withering looks able to make and break a designers career. It is amusing to see her actually summon a guffaw as she gives the CEO of Neiman Marcus a flirty arm touch at a Vogue/retail conference.

Vogue's Creative Director Grace Coddington comes off as the antithesis of Anna. She has warmth, a sense of humour and a devoted passion for the beauty of fashion and the aesthetic in general. She is a true artist and Anna does give credit where credit is due (apparently she has been quoted as saying she can't live without Grace), despite their numerous disagreements.

As a study in office politics this film is priceless. Of course these things can be cut so easily to push or pull the audience in a particular direction, but Anna was at the Sundance premiere so she can't be too miffed about it.

As soon as it finished I wanted to watch it again to revisit the behind the scenes glimpses of the high fashion shoots + relive Anna's ruthless cut downs and evil eye. And I wanted to befriend the lovely Grace.

For a more cerebral review of the doco written by someone with a better handle on the film world click here.

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