Dir: R.J Cutler
By Daria Landal
For the first time in forever, the fashion bible of America opens its doors for strangers. But don’t count too much on penetrating the secrets of its mistress, Anna Wintour, with work ethics of a Spartan and reputation of a devil (that one who wears Prada).
The September Issue is an American documentary film on the largest issue of a magazine in history of publishing, that is, American Vogue in September 2007 (a record beat in 2012 by US Vogue). Marketed as ‘the real The Devil Wears Prada’, the film crew follows the 9-month creation process of a single issue. The crew gained an unprecedented access to Vogue offices, following Grace and Anna in New York, Paris and London. The film went on to be the 5th most successful American documentary in 2009, grossing more than $6m in the box office.
The documentary combines a touch of comedy, biography and drama in one, not to mention an overwhelming amount of high-end fashion. And while its synopsis says the movie is dedicated to the process of making an issue of the September’s Vogue, it’s Anna Wintour and Grace Coddington who steal the picture, their tumultuous yet respectful working relationship taking the central stage.
Anna, the ultimate fashion dictator, who smiles as often as she wears black (almost never, that is), looks not that far on film from Meryl Streep’s portrayal in Devil Wears Prada. Her famous frostiness and rigorous work ethics are on full display in the movie. Often dubbed as a ‘Queen of Fashion’, she has Starbucks coffee cup in place of a scepter, with her court composed of America’s leading fashion experts, renowned designers and Hollywood stars. Her inner circle is ready to follow Anna’s every whim, with a notable exception in the face of Grace Coddington. More humane personality of Grace against Anna’s feisty, distant one becomes the pinnacle of drama in the movie. It is easy to sympathize with Grace, who passionately stands up for the fashion ideas she believes in, gets a strawberry tart for a super-thin model and is open about her life.
The film might be a unique opportunity to get behind the Holy Grail of fashion journalism, but not to Anna Wintour’s personality. Although we see her both in the office and at her home, the enigma of her persona remains unexplained. However, the documentary is still very inspirational and enjoyable to watch. Both Grace and Anna – duh – have much to say on the subjects of fashion, work and life. One of the best pieces of advice is the one the photographer Norman Parkinson gave Grace in the beginning of her career, “Always keep your eyes open. Never go to sleep in a car or anything like that. Whatever you see out of the window can inspire you”.
Even those who do not follow the fashion industry might benefit from watching this documentary. It’s not just a rundown of the world few know about; above all, this film is about a dedicated team of professionals, striving to the bitter end of perfectionism to make it with a bang. And this is something that everyone who wants to make it in this world could relate to.