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Let Them Eat Cake: Vogue editor Anna Wintour gets photoshopped in The September Issue 

Vogue editor Anna Wintour gets photoshopped in The September Issue.

click to enlarge film_september.jpg
There is nothing in The September Issue that could be described with the normal documentary vocabulary. Director RJ Cutler does not probe, investigate, expose or provide much insight into the world of Vogue. What we get instead is an entertaining effort in rebranding.

The fashion industry has taken the blame in recent years for a variety of social ills - credit card debt, anorexia, teenage pregnancy, drug addiction and more. Fashion magazines and the thin models contained within are now the go-to scapegoat for low self-esteem and its ever-expanding list of consequences. When the recession hit, fingers were jabbed more fiercely and the key players fell out of favor alongside celebrities, or anyone else living luxuriously. This film pointedly includes a money shot of a model trussed up in a corset happily biting into a huge cream pastry. We don't, however, see if she swallows.

Vogue editor Anna Wintour has long held a reputation for being cold, mean and rude - traits that are now seriously unfashionable. When we're down on our luck, we like those better off than us to at least crack a smile, and Wintour would not. Until now, that is - there is smiling aplenty in The September Issue. A thorough rebranding would have to include a complete overhaul of her The Devil Wears Prada persona.

When I was an intern at the London Vogue offices, my first task was to sign a confidentiality agreement preventing the intern experience from being made public, be that by blog or by book. This film is a behind-the-scenes look at the making of one critical issue of the magazine, but what we see has clearly undergone some heavily supervised editing. Such restraint, however, is not to the film's detriment.

The September Issue concentrates as much on artistic director Grace Coddington as it does Wintour. Coddington read the magazine as a child in rural Wales before entering a modeling competition that got her featured in its fashion shoots. Whereas Wintour was persuaded into the publishing industry by her father, editor of the British Evening Standard newspaper; Coddington was captured by the escapism and fantasy of the photographs. Between their two stories we learn much about the progression of popular culture in the last decade. Coddington expresses dislike for celebrities dominating the cover of Vogue. Wintour courts top designers and their celebrity friends, and unashamedly exclaims that one very-slim model looks pregnant.

Coddington is as much the reason for the continued success of Vogue as Wintour. During the film, we see her undertake a 1920s inspired shoot in Paris and the results are just plain gorgeous. She takes a rack of clothes, a bunch of girls and produces photographs full of detail and atmosphere that together tell a full, dramatic story. Most girls who buy Vogue cannot afford the clothes. Most girls are like Coddington was back in Wales, just daydreaming as they turn the shiny pages. This is more than selling dresses, it's art.

For many women, getting dressed in the morning is the most creative and expressive they get to be all day. Women who read Vogue don't want warts and all, they want a fairytale, and The September Issue is more that than the other.

The September Issue ★★★★✩

Directed by RJ Cutler. Starring Anna Wintour, Grace Coddington, André Leon Talley. Rated PG-13

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