Sunday, May 9, 2010

Helly's Video View- The September Issue

As I am the only female, regular contributer to BOTM, I can imagine how my choice of film this week may illicit some groans from some of you but the only things I saw this week were this and Iron Man 2 and I thought I could get more mileage out of this, as this is my two word review of Iron Man 2 - 'It Rocked!. Besides I think we all have learnt that documentaries can still be very interesting even if you are not interested in or know very little about the subject matter eg. Anvil, Grey Gardens, Capturing the Friedmans...although not many people have an avid interest in paedophilia...except paedophiles I guess...

I digress, on to the main point- For those of you unfamiliar with this film The September Issue is a fashion documentary which primarily focuses on the editor-in-chief of American Vogue, Anna Wintour and her extreme perfectionism when it comes to putting together The September Issue , the largest and most notorious edition of Vogue magazine. Anna Wintour has been dubbed 'the ice queen' by some press and Meryl Streep's character in The Devil Wears Prada was based on her.

On the blurb of the dvd it says something to the effect of 'For many years Anna Wintourn has kept the process of putting together American Vogue a closely guarded secret..until now! The Doors of American Vogue are flown open and the film makers are given unlimited access to the inner workings of Vogue. This is the fashion industry, like you've never seen before!' That's not verbatim clearly and sorry Lee I know you hate it when I read the blurbs! Now I know that the people who write the blurbs are probably the distribution companies and not the film makers, but even still I was very excited by this premise and then inevitably let down as it failed to deliver on this front. There were no 'secrets exposed' as such and it didn't reveal anything new about the fashion industry.

I think the crucial flaw in this film, is lack of vision. Documentaries are still films and even though there is no written narrative, the film maker should still have an idea of the story they are trying to tell or the message they are trying to convey. In other words documentaries may seem objective, but they really are still subjective as the film maker can interpret the footage they shot in any way they like. In this documentary, it really seems as if they just let the cameras roll and cut it together without having a clear story in mind. There is the occasional scene with Anna supposedly 'letting her guard down' but if that was the intention of the director- to show that Anna Wintourn is not the cold, oppressor that many people believe she is, than there should have been more of these scenes. In fact it would have made for a more interesting film if they had just scrapped the whole September Issue element and just focused on Wintour and her life story. There is one paticular poignant scene when Wintour talks about how the rest of her family all work for charitable organisations, or in politics and that they are 'amused' by what she does. In this one scene you can see that even someone extremely powerful and successful can still have their own insecurities.

Another interesting character in this film was the creative director and head stylist Grace. She is pitted against Wintour as the 'good guy' of the film. An ex-model, Grace is responsible for the majority of the fashion shoots and produces amazingly beautiful work. She takes enormous pride in what she does and is genuinely hurt when her some of her work is cut from the issue. In one photo shoot she uses the camera man from the documentary and Wintourn proclaims that she wants the camera man's stomach retouched in the final photo. Grace puts her foot down and insists that she doesn't want him retouched as the point of the photo is that he is a real person and is not perfect and adds to this by saying 'it's bad enough that the models are perfect.' She also refers to herself as a romantic and it's hard to believe that somebody this warm hearted exists in the cold,bitchy fashion industry.

Oh and the clothes were pretty :)



  1. Very well written... I'm afraid that's all I can say, as I haven't seen it, though I felt something had to be said.

  2. Thanks Jay! Yeah I figured no one would have seen this one, but that's also partly why I wanted to write about it.