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The September Issue

USA 2009
Directed by
R.J Cutler
86 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

The September Issue

Synopsis: A documentary about the creation of the September issue of Vogue, the annual highpoint of the fashion world’s Bible.

It’s not easy to take the world of high fashion seriously but there are people who do. One such is Anna Wintour, editor of American Vogue  and apparently the inspiration for Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada (2006). Director R.J. Cutler may not be countable among the believers but he does treat his subject fairly.  The director does not attempt to ridicule people who are eminently capable of doing it to themselves (a memorable line from one of Wintour's apparatchiks being “September is the January of fashion”) or to glamorize what is evidently a tough and heartless business.

Whether this makes for an interesting film is another matter. Anna Wintour is no doubt the epicentre of the film but for most of it she is walking away from the camera, staring out her limo’s window or obscured behind large sunglasses. There are some moments when she talks direct to the camera and these are quite poignant for Wintour is intelligent if guarded and we have to work to read meaning from her brief statements of which there are too few.

Most of the film is simply given to fleshing out its title. Whether this is of interest will depend on how into the fashion world, rather than fashion as such, you are. For the film is very much about the mechanics of how the heavyweight magazine is assembled, than the frocks themselves. Here Grace Coddington, Wintour’s creative director, a down-to-earth woman, is a blessed relief from the army of flunkies who kiss their mistress’s backside as if their lives depended on it. Which evidently they do, though Wintour is careful never to vent her ire on camera (the most telling scene in this respect comes when her daughter explains that she has no intention of becoming a fashion editor and Wintour is heard, rather scarily, in the background to say “We’ll see”).  And more’s the pity.  No doubt the final cut was contractually approved by Ms Wintour and the director really had no alternative than to play it her way in order to gain the access he has but The September Issue, if not actually reverential, is far too tame to be much more than of passing interest to those not already enamoured of its subject matter.




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