The September Issue (USA; 90 min.)

directed by: R. J. Cutler
The September Issues

Diane says: "Leafing through the September 2007 issue of Vogue is a big job. I'm on page 208 and my arms are already tired, with 632 pages to go. The table of contents appears after 145 pages of ads. Now I can see why the ad sales team is so big.

"THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE (directed by R. J. Cutler, who produced WAR ROOM and THIN) shows us how this particular issue was developed. It's your nonfiction alternative to DEVIL WEARS PRADA: the hardened boss, Anna Wintour, is constantly crushing the hard work of her staff with one quick line. Cutler selects great glimpses of how editor Wintour wields her power in the fashion world, and how others acknowledge it. She's the impassive one in the front row seat at all the couture shows. One small comment from her to an Yves St. Laurent designer and his fall line changes. Neiman-Marcus' CEO comes to Wintour to get an inventory problem resolved. And it's Wintour who decides who will be the up-and-coming designer. Gosh, I thought she just edited a magazine. On the other hand, you can tell that the mockery of her siblings and the career choices of her daughter hurt her.

"Like Grace Coddington, Vogue's Creative Director and the second lead in this film, Wintour has been at the helm of American Vogue for 20 years. The two women have their own styles, which they've worn for years--nice to see as an antidote to trend-followers. But Coddington dresses and moves so shlumpily that you can't imagine she began as a model.

"Cutler started shooting the film in January. Difficulties abound. One section must be re-shot a week before the mag goes to print. (You'd never know from the documentary that there are any words in the magazine.) Coddington and Wintour have major disagreements.

"I'm not sure whether this docu will prove to be memorable, but it's really lively and enjoyable. 4 cats"

Bruce says: "Whether or not you happen to be a fashionista, there is plenty to like in THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE.  It is a fascinating look at the mechanisms behind putting together the largest magazine issue ever published, the September 2007 Vogue, which clocked in at 840 pages.  Anna Wintour, Vogue’s editor-in-chief is the most powerful figure in the fashion world.  The film gives us some background about Wintour, her childhood ambition to be a Vogue editor and her journalist father whom she idolized.   The film is not all about Anna, however.  Given almost equal coverage is the red-maned Grace Coddington, Vogue’s creative director and the genius behind the outrageous, outlandish photo shoots that are the Vogue trademark.   Coddington is a former model from the days when England was swinging like a pendulum due.  Her modeling career was cut short by a disfiguring automobile accident and she sought refuge at British Vogue where she worked until Wintour brought her to the United States when Wintour snagged the top post at Vogue.

"The two women have a respectful but contentious relationship.  There is no question who is boss.  Coddington’s job is to provide an array of fashion photos from which to choose.  During the course of the film we see the photo shoots, the finished product and the selection process which is intensely political.   Wintour, with the help of assistants like André Leon Talley, Vogue’s editor-at–large, spend hours agonizing which pictures should be culled.  Coddington lobbies to get her favourite pictures in the issue and is dismayed when her top favourite is dismissed because it doesn’t fit stylistically with the others.  She is vindicated when by the final tally which reveals that the entire magazine consists of her photos save a special on cover girl Serena Miller. In this mediocre piece, the somewhat graceless Miller cavorts in Rome for photographer Mario Testino.  One can only imagine  what that shoot would have been like had Coddington been in charge; for starters, the Coliseum shot much wanted  by Wintour would, no doubt, have been usable.   

"What is missing from the film is the features department.  No one really associates Vogue with articles but they remain a significant part of its appeal and its history.  There are still articles and columns on travel, beauty and cultural events: book and theatre reviews: and coverage of society functions.  Much of what goes into these ancillary features has a tie in to fashion.   

"The shock of the film for me is how unglamorous Wintour appears.  She allows herself to be photographed in sheath dresses that don’t fit very well.  Several profile shots reveal a triple chin that is never evident when she is photographed at runaway fashion events in the front row, dressed in Prada and wearing her trademark dark glasses. 3 1/2 cats"