Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The September Issue

Doc Soup opened this season with the Canadian Premiere of The September Issue, followed by a brief Q and A with the director RJ Cutler, courtesy Skype.

The movie focuses on the making of the September 2007 issue of Vogue, which broke records when it weighed in at four pounds and sold 13M copies.

There are moments in the film that are laugh-out-loud funny. Egos writ large become highly entertaining.

Cutler's other films include The War Room and The Perfect Candidate. He admits the subjects of those documentaries communicated more strongly with words, and as a result the shots generally had more in the frame. The September Issue revolves around visual, non-verbal communication - when Anna Wintour looks away from something, it speaks volumes. As a result, much of the film is told in close-ups, conveyed through sidelong glances and subtle gestures.

Wintour agreed to the film before The Devil Wears Prada came out. Cutler said that she essentially saw the same film the audience did, and not much changed, even though Wintour made numerous "suggestions" after she saw the cut. She stayed true to her word and allowed him full creative license.

Wintour acknowledges that her brothers and sister find her career amusing. Her daughter tells the camera she has no plans of entering the world of fashion, she wants to pursue more meaningful work. But this is no lightweight industry - it generates $300B annually worldwide.

The movie is a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the fashion world, where surprising to me at least, so few people show up to work in a glamoured state. Unless it is part of the job description.

Most interesting was the relationship between Wintour, the editor, and Cottingham, the creative director. Fire and ice; art and commerce. The push and pull between the two is likely what makes Vogue such a success. It certainly makes The September Issue worth watching.

Reminds me of another recent fashion documentary - also highly engaging because of the behind-the-scenes relationship. The Last Emperor featured Valentino and his long-term partner Giancarlo Giammetti. The dynamics are strangely similar - two seemingly polar opposites relying on each other for balance and realization.

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