Friday, March 11, 2011

The Septembrists

I finally got around to watching The September Issue this week. Impressive, since it's been on my list to watch since it came out two years ago. Clearly, I have been doing other, much more important things with my valuable time.*

I have a subscription to Vogue. I used to only buy the massive fall issue, but then reading it would always make me feel fat, which is fine, because that's what Anna Wintour was going for anyway, so, way to go, Anna. Reading it still makes me feel fat, but perversely I like reading it while stuffing myself with chocolate or cake. Sort of like, hah, don't you wish YOU could be eating this? But you can't, because you're wedged into a sample size that will explode if you breathe out too vigorously.

But The September Issue, while about (you guessed it) the September issue, is really much more about the relationship between the forbidding Anna Wintour and her daffy second-in-command, Grace Coddington.

Wintour comes across as evil as people say she is, from the perma-pursed mouth and Botoxed forehead. She makes Meryl Streep's Miranda Priestly look positively maternal in comparison. Wintour seems more like a massive praying mantis in a wig and couture, and I get the feeling that when the camera is off, she unhinges her jaw and devours farm animals.

I was all set to make fun of Wintour's prissy, unchanging bob, but then I looked in the mirror and realized we have almost identical haircuts and the same penchant for massive sunglasses, and I was suitably chagrined.

All that bathing in virgin's blood and she still has forehead lines.

Coddington is Wintour's foil: sweet, slightly dumpy, and very gentle. The saddest scene in the movie is listening to Coddington talk about her early years as a model, and the disfiguring car crash that ended it, but she doesn't seem bitter, just resigned to playing second banana to Wintour.

Other bit players at Vogue make an appearance, from the whale-like Andre Leon Talley (he comes across as Miss J's ugly sister, and seems affected and pretentious next to the religious-like fervor of the rest of the staff) to Wintour's underlings, who wither and become instantly forgettable under her scrutiny.

There are quietly affecting moments in the documentary, like when Coddington buys tarts for a photo shoot and the stick-thin model eyes them and then guiltily shoves one into her mouth; or when Coddington tears up after Wintour discards half of a photo shoot she's put together. The interviews with Wintour make it clear that she will not relax her iron grip on either her magazine or herself, but it's hard not to like her in spite of herself, especially after watching her push a young designer (Thakoon) into a lucrative contract with Gap.

*I was not actually doing anything more important.

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