The September Issue

Fri, Sep 11, 2009, 01:00

THE MAKERS of this slick but unsatisfactory documentary have, it says here, gained “unprecedented access” to the activities of notorious Vogueeditor Anna Wintour. Fans of The Devil Wears Prada, in which Meryl Streep essayed a ruthless, vampiric variation on Wintour’s assumed persona, will undoubtedly be looking forward to volcanic sulks and the frequent eviscerations of cowed underlings. They are in for a disappointment.

Following the preparation of the fattest, most widely read issue in Vogue’s year, director RJ Cutler presents Ms Wintour as a colourless, only mildly stroppy enigma with little of interest to say on any of the fashion’s world’s controversies. Perhaps her apparent dullness actually is the real story here, but, if you heed the subtext beneath her colleagues’ tense stage whispers, you will discern a more interesting person lurking behind the sunglasses and passive evasion.

At any rate, either because the access is not “unprecedented” enough or because Wintour refuses to fling hole-punchers at secretaries, the endlessly accommodating Cutler is forced to focus most of his attention on Wintour’s No 2.

Grace Coddington, Vogue’s creative director, a former model with a savage, icy articulacy, does, indeed, prove to be a compelling figure. But Cutler’s unwillingness to press her on key haut-couture issues – fur, weight, relevancy – further bolsters the impression that The September Issueis little more than a glossy commercial for Vogueand its questionable values.

The final betrayal comes when Cutler allows one of his camermen to be incorporated into a fashion shoot. It’s as if an embedded, supposedly disinterested war reporter had agreed to man the bazooka for a spell.