Long before I became a self-described "movie buff" I maintained a deep love of Fashion. A surprising admission I'm sure for those of you who know me (I am clearly NOT the fashionista these days). But throughout my adolescence I reveled in watching Fashion TV (run in syndication on VH1 in the mid 90s) and carried around a sketch book of my "designs" with me almost everywhere.
Some time ago, on a Saturday afternoon drive on Arlington Boulevard I flipped to NPR and tuned in to hear an interview with a gentleman (whose name now escapes me) who had just completed filming a full-length documentary on Anna Wintour, (for those of you not familiar with the all-too-important fashion world, I'll explain) the famed editor of Vogue magazine. Thus the waiting began...
Luckily, I did not have to wait too much longer to see the film. Unfortunately, I (somehow) managed to miss The September Issue in theaters, but not so long after its big screen run it turned up on Netflix.
The September Issue does not disappoint! It shows Anna at her best; sitting behind her intimidating editor's desk, sporting her sleek bob, and short sheath dresses in a variety of colors and patterns (much to my surprise, Anna is NOT a fan of black), dictating her "vision" for the magazine's pages to her many, many, peons. The film gives us a raw view of the creative process behind Vogue's much-anticipated September issue, complete with the trials and tribulations of Anna's dedicated staffers as they trudge through another season trying to accommodate Anna's demands.
For those of you who caught Meryl Streep's performance in The Devil Wears Prada, you will see some similarities between the farce and the real thing. Anna is as her reputation aspouses; disciplined, focused, (more than a bit) critical, but always, masterful in her vision for the magazine. Where The September Issue surprises is Anna's introduction to her daughter, Bee Shaffer. Anna, by reputation, is known for her tenacity to keep the details of her private life just that, private. But we are introduced to Bee, a well-spoken, confident girl with a surprising love, not for fashion... but the law! The issue of where Bee will end up... her "rightful" place clearly at the editor's desk; is somewhat of a question (a circumstance Anna is less than thrilled with).
The focus clearly centered on Anna, there are a few "characters" that jump out. One in particular, is Grace Coddington, the magazine's creative director. Grace, tho not much to look at these days, was once a budding beauty found on the inside of Vogue's pages as a high fashion model. However, in the aftermath of a fortuitous car accident, these days she's clearly focused on the content - contributing the bulk of the photo spreads; awe-inspiring shoots of romantic scenes full of imagery and well, absolutely stunning beauty. Unfortunately, for her (and for us) much of her work doesn't make it past the cutting room floor as time and time again we see Anna's discerning eye scan the shoots and systematically pull the assumed favorites off the line!
A documentary at heart, The September Issue is true to its subjects, presenting them in a realistic (and sometimes adversarial) light. While at the same time, providing some well-time comic relief; as we see Grace and Anna butt heads on more than one occasion.
Of course, as this is is a FASHION themed film, the best elements include the aspiring staffers, talented photographers, hungry models, gorgeous clothes, and of course, the cameos! Keep a watchful eye for Oscar (of De la Renta fame), Jean-Paul Gaultier, John Galliano, and every bride's favorite, the lovely Vera Wang.
The September Issue comes highly recommended for fashionistas and documentary connoisseurs!
The Bee Charmer Rating: B+