What a fun film!
OK, I am way behind on this one — the documentary, “The September Issue,” came out nationwide last September. I watched it yesterday. If you haven’t seen it, rent it with “The Devil Wears Prada” for a delicious double-bill, comparing real life to reel life.
For those of you not passionate about clothes, fashion, design or what Anna actually looks like without those damn sunglasses — the film is about the making of Vogue’s September issue, a legendarily enormous annual doorstop of a magazine weighing as much as a Thanksgiving turkey.
Tom Florio, publisher of Vogue, is a great character in the film as he tries to explicate Wintour’s terrifyingly glacial demeanor, deliciously parodied by Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada”, a film based on a book by former Vogue assistant, Lauren Weisberger.
“She’s not warm,” he says. “I have to be warm for both of us. She’s busy. She’s busy doing her job.”
I’ve seen DWP so many times I can recite its dialogue by heart; I loved seeing how exactly it mimics Wintour’s real office, behavior and rareified lifestyle.
And the brutal, albeit very well-dressed, power struggles are Olympian!
Watching Grace Coddington — the magazine’s creative director — sparring with (and inevitably losing to) Wintour is a rare and telling glimpse of what it takes for two powerful, determined, talented and creative women to achieve, and remain at, the highest levels of this most competitive game. That both are British, coming from a culture where understatement trumps typical New York in-your-face-ness, only makes their civil but relentless jockeying for pages even more compelling.
Not to mention the enormous egos — photographers, models, editors, art directors, designers. However appalling to every feminist bone in my body, I loved the scene where the art director is deciding which image of Sienna Miller to use on the most valuable piece of real estate, the cover — and he’s dismayed by her visible fillings (!)
“I think this neck looks better. Maybe we’ll put this head on this body,” he says, revealing how their use of Photoshop and retouching is as automatic and unremarkable as breathing. Altered images, which I’ve blogged about here before, are normal in this world. Therefore Grace — desperate to rescue a failed shoot by using one of the documentary’s middle-aged male cameramen, complete with his real pot-belly, as a photo subject — has to rush to the phone to make sure his jiggly real-world belly is not artifically flattened by their ruthlessly fastidious re-touchers.
“We’re not,” she says to the camera, “all perfect.”
Even if reading Vogue has never been a priority, check it out.
It’s funny, moving, telling — few documentaries focus on women at work, let alone whose well-toned arms wrestle so fiercely for raw, pure power.