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The Most Anticipated September Issue

October 26, 2009

If you have any interest in, or intent to be a part of, the fashion or magazine industry, go see The September Issue. It would be a disservice to you if you didn’t take advantage of this rare, and eagerly anticipated, insight into both worlds.

Anna Wintour, Grace Coddington and Andre Leon Talley were, for the most part, just names on a page until R. J Cutler was granted access to the five month long process of putting together Vogue’s 2007 September Issue, the largest issue in their history. Watching the magazine come together was enthralling, but these three characters really stole the show. Every time Wintour came on screen, my stomach started to tense as it waited to see whose heart she was about to break. While she has seemed a bit more human than expected in her publicity tour, her presence was chilling. Even during the few times where she opened up in her one-on-one interviews, revealing the slightest bit of vulnerability, you could literally see her wall being put up again moments later, her eyes slitting and posture straightened. But what the movie did credit her with was upmost respect. It was amazing to see all that power and authority excude from such a tiny person. Her ability to helm the mast of a beast like Vogue was nothing but inspirational.

Wintour’s seriousness was nicely balanced by her creative director, Grace Coddington, who was delightfully eccentric and always offered funny quips throughout. Responsible for styling all of the fashion spreads of the issue, save for the cover story of Sienna Miller, Coddington is essentially responsible for the beautiful art that Vogue is known for. Watching her work is fascinating, seemingly second-nature as she sorts through clothes on the rack while divulging her complaints to the camera. We become just as attached to her work as she does, and when Wintour breezes through the art office and cuts a quarter of a spread, our hearts sink with her’s.

Andre Leon Talley is a force to be reckoned with and, in my opinion, was robbed of ample screen time. The flamboyant editor-at-large (which is quite the double-entendre of a title) was more often the butt of the joke rather than portraying his share of the work. A particularly funny scene was showing him attending a private tennis lesson decked out in a Louis Vuitton towel, Vuitton racket case, Vuitton duffel bag and Vuitton cooler.

Watching the core staff work together was of course entertaining and educational, and the behind-the-scenes of the photo shoots were absolutely drool-worthy, but as a certified magazine nerd my one complaint is that I wanted to see more, more, more. To me, it often felt like a tease. Of course, this is understandable due to condensing five month’s worth of footage into a 90 minute movie, but it too often felt like the documentary jumped from one fascinating thing to the next without giving everything its deserved time. We got to see the shooting and editing of each spread, but I would have loved to watch the complete growth of at least one of them, from generating concepts to Photoshop. And I understand the main appeal of the magazine is its fashion, but can’t we get even one scene about, say, story meetings or the business side of things? Perhaps it is because Vogue has been kept so mysterious for so long to generate too many questions that I was left feeling just a bit unsatisfied. However, the experience was still a whirlwind of awe and delight and as soon as I left the theater I couldn’t wait to see it again.

All in all, the main thing I took away from The September Issue is that even Anna Wintour and Grace Coddington started out as teenagers gazing longingly at the pages of their favorite magazines. It was also only a dream for them until they serendipituously wound up at Vogue on the same day and now look at who they have become. The September Issue fondly celebrates the success of these two women and the magazine they’re credited to transforming in a way that is, quite simply, impossible to not enjoy.

Originally written September 18, 2009

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