The September Issue (2009)

(On DVD, September 2010) The September Issue does something very clever in its first minute: it confronts viewers who dismiss the world of fashion with sweeping statements that just betray their ignorance.  (“people are frightened about fashion. Because it scares them or make them feel insecure they just put it down”) Thus challenged, viewers can settle down to enjoy a behind-the-scene look at the making of “the bible of the fashion industry”: The deeply influential September issue of Vogue magazine, which has the power to set trends for an entire season.  This is one of those silent-narrator films (although the cameraman gets dragged into a photo-shoot late in the film, with hilarious results), leaving enough space for Vogue magazine’s staff.  The two dominating figures are quasi-legendary editor Anna Wintour and creative director Grace Coddington: both squabble over the magazine’s layout, Wintour seemingly dominating for much of the film but eventually accepting Coddington’s advice by the end.  (Given the contrast between the haughty Wintour and the earthier Coddington, this also stands as the viewers’ vindication.)  There aren’t any big revelations or apologies about taste-maker Wintour, but that’s almost OK given the need to keep such figures on a quasi-mythical level. (Those who come to The September Issue with her caricature in The Devil Wears Prada in mind won’t be surprised or disappointed.) Otherwise, it’s a peek at the prodigious style factory that is Vogue, where considerable time and effort goes into making stunning pictures that may be discarded on a whim.  Not enough time is spent on the actual graphic design of the magazine, but we get enough of models, photographers and editors trying to make sense of such a logistical undertaking.  The end result isn’t much of a critical exploration of Vogue or its industry, since The September Issue is unarguably sympathetic to the world of fashion: after seeing so many people working hard at putting out such a beautiful product, how could it be otherwise?

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