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Anna Wintour & The September Issue

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The Septmeber Issue finally made it to mid-Missouri a few weeks ago, but it opened in New York August 28 and across the country September 1. The documentary, by filmmaker R.J. Cutler (The War Room, American High), takes an inside look at the making of Vogue‘s 2007 September issue, the largest of the year.

Coddington at Fashion Week

The film didn’t make Wintour seem too Devil Wears Prada, but she definitely had her moments. Reviews of the documentary said that creative director Grace Coddington is the real star — absolutely true. She is hilarious, and is possibly the only staffer not afraid of Wintour. One male employee is the obvious yes-man who agrees with the editor-in-chief on almost everything; Coddington remarks that he won’t sign off on something unless Wintour’s seen it so he doesn’t “make a mistake”.

I didn’t know that much about Coddington other than what she looked like, and I loved seeing her personality. She grew up in North Wales and entered a Vogue modeling contest and ended up winning; her modeling career was cut short by a car accident which required plastic surgery to fix facial injuries. She then was offered a job at British Vogue where she worked for some twenty-odd years before moving to American Vogue. She personally dresses and styles the models on her shoots, which she says is literally unheard of at other magazines/shoots (the model agrees). Coddington crosses swords with Wintour when spreads from her Jazz Age, John Galliano-inspired shoot keep getting “killed” (cut from the issue). I remember that spread because I absolutely loved it — I’m pretty sure I tore out most of the story and kept it. (See the photos here)

Shot from Coddington's "Paris Je T'aime" Spread for the September 2007 Issue

On the other hand, editor-at-large André Leon Talley barely features in the documentary but has a flashy monthly column with the names of celebrities mentioned in bold. He is over-the-top

flamboyant and it seems like he mentions Oprah in every column — which seems like a much easier character to play up in a film, but Cutler and his team chose Coddington. This gives the viewer a more intimate look at the magazine, instead of cliché (but funny) Talley, who doesn’t seem like he does much of anything at Vogue, whereas Coddington is just as involved in putting together the issue as Wintour. Cutler does show Talley at his tennis lesson. This is Talley’s idea of “working out”: Vuitton trunks carrying his belongings, a vintage Piaget watch littered with diamonds — “my idea of a tennis watch” — and a Vuitton beach towel thrown around his neck, which doesn’t leave much mobility to hit a tennis ball.

Coddington and Wintour take notes on the front row

I was a bit disappointed that some things were left out. Nothing was included about the writing in Vogue; maybe no one cares about that and it’s just the journalist in me. Contributor and socialite Plum Sykes was no where to be found, but now that I think about it, she might not have been a regular contributor yet back in 2007.

The criticism of Sienna Miller was a little disheartening. Her smile for the cover shot was deemed “toothy” and her fillings pointed out, but “that can be fixed, of course”. They even discussed using the body from one photograph and the head from another (I’m not sure if they actually ended up doing that). Scenes like this showed the not-so-glamorous side of the fashion industry that Cutler unfortunately sort of glosses over during the rest of the film.

It was entertaining and certainly a must-see for anyone interested in fashion, magazine publishing or photography. Some aspects of production weren’t included, which is a shame, but it definitely humanizes Wintour — something that is rarely even attempted.

The September Issue is playing at the Ragtag Cinema on Hitt Street through November 5.

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Written by Nancy Stiles

November 1, 2009 at 6:30 pm

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