Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The September Issue

RJ Cutler | 2009 | 90 min | US

Anna Wintour is a monster in the world of fashion. The editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine is renowned for her ability to make careers, dictate trends, and sway consumers. She is also renowned for an aloof demenor that has earned her the nickname "Nuclear Wintour." Unfortunately, that same reservedness permeates The September Issue, a documentary that goes behind the scenes at Vogue to trace that creation of the ridiculously popular 2007 edition of the magazine.

After being involved in great projects like The War Room, Perfect Candidate, and American High I expected director RJ Cutler to deliver a little more meat. We are treated to glimpses of some of fashions most well-regarded and faaabulous personalities, but only glimpses. There are reams of footage of skinny white girls rushing through halls with racks or clothes or being dressed down by Wintour, but little else. Really, though, it is unreasonable to expect people who's world revolves around image to be anything but guarded and cool. When it comes to portraits of Anna Wintour, even the recent 60 Minutes feature provided greater insight. Here Wintour only offers a couple mentions of her father's influence through pursed lips. Initially, one of the film's more interesting threads is the lengthy set-up for a battle between creative director Grace Coddington and Wintour, but that battle never comes. The film is loaded with foot stomping and huffing over creative differences, although everyone goes to great pains to avoid anything other than complaining to underlings.

Ultimately, my quarrel with The September Issue is that it reeks of two things I loathe: passive-aggressiveness and self-importance. For all the politics, fighting, and dealing, all of their concerns just come off as, well, silly. And I say all of this as a dude who A) was really looking forward to this film, and B) is probably far more interested in fashion than the average guy. It is simply not very compelling and there is almost nothing in the way of conflict. The September Issue reveals Vogue to be both a massive endeavour and a well-oiled machine that clips along remarkably smoothly despite the number of artistic and creative decisions involved. Doesn't sound like the makings of a very good documentary, does it?

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