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Arts and Entertainment

Movie Review: The September Issue

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Sometimes life inspires art. Not too long ago, the life of Anna Wintour, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue magazine, inspired The Devil Wears Prada. In The September Issue we’re taken backstage into the real life fashion show that is Anna’s World. I had to wonder, on my way into the theatre, if taking part in this documentary was some PR move on the part of Ms. Wintour. Did being portrayed as an evil bitch by none other than Meryl Streep lead her to want to open up and show the public a softer side? And then the film began and the answer was… Hell, no. Anna is who she is, and you kind of have to love her for it.

She’s not an easy woman with whom to work, but her praise and approval, subtle and rare as it may be distributed, is like a drug to the people around her. Top designers quiver in front of her like nervous schoolchildren with late homework as she pops by fashion studios all over the world. “It’s not quite done,” they tell her about their latest lines wherever she goes. “They never are,” she says in a way that, rather than let the designer off the hook, suggests she’s not interested in excuses.

Anna’s office is arranged almost identically to the one Streep’s Devil inhabited, with a large imposing desk facing glass doors that open up to a corridor where an assistant sits on either side. We only ever see the tops of their heads and hear the occasional “Anna Wintour’s office,” as they tend to the phones behind four-foot tall walls. So, no, you’re not going to get to know Anna’s assistants, but you do get to meet some of the many other people who are scared of her and get to laugh as they dance around their high priestess.

One member of the Vogue inner circle you’ll get to know is Editor-at-Large André Leon Talley. Wow… André. If you remember seeing Mannequin, with Anthony Bouvier from Designing Women playing a super over-the-top gay man with a flair for outlandish fashion, you may be somewhat prepared for the entrance of André, but even then, not by much. He’s larger than life and, apparently, just too large. Anna told him he needed to lose some weight. He says she was concerned about his health and so he took up tennis, which he plays dressed in the most ridiculous getup ever to be worn on a court. His “workout” is one of the funniest moments in sports you’ll see this year.

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Although the documentary starts out with Anna front and center, it is Creative Director Grace Coddington who ultimately steals the show. Fiery and redheaded, even into her late 60’s, she actually started at Vogue the same day that Anna did twenty years ago. Grace took the longest to warm up to the documentary crew’s presence at Vogue, but ended up showing them the most vulnerable parts of herself and even managed to turn her cameras on them. Anna, on the other hand, doesn’t drop her guard for a moment. We briefly glimpse her softer side through the interviews with Anna’s daughter, who is studying to become a lawyer and eschews the fashion world and how seriously people take it. Silly or not, the extreme passion for fashion that is exposed in The September Issue makes for a voyeuristically delicious documentary.

Review by Courtney Quinn

The September Issue opens today

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