Now this is a movie about fashion. Not glorifying it, not mocking it, not fictional. If you too consider fashion to be your number one, you will thoroughly enjoy this film. I'm not saying you're going to want to run to NYC and join the ranks at Vogue, but you will witness what happens behind the scenes, meet the players, and, finally, meet Anna, glasses off. I was lucky enough to chat with the film's director, RJ Cutler, after I viewed the film, and he shined many a light on how the film came about, how it changed his perception of the world of fashion, and how fascinating of a story it is. This is the story of The September Issue . . .
It's a given the film reveals the extensive work that goes into creating the biggest issue of the year. Along the way we visit with Anna, her daughter Bee Shaffer (briefly), and other masthead characters. Most notably, the magazine's famed editor Grace Coddington and comic-reliever André Leon Talley.
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RJ Cutler confirmed the movie was all access. It was a very intimate experience: only RJ, one camera man, and one sound man captured the scenes. Naturally, it took a while to gain trust. Especially with Coddington, who needed four months to warm up to the camera. He believes, "We see it clearly." And when Anna opens up about her family toward the end, "The relationship was in a certain place, we found it."
The film is smoothly edited, provides plenty of fashion eye candy — both at Fashion Weeks and photos shoots — and leaves you wanting more. And leaves you feeling more. You feel for Grace, a true artist struggling in a new technology and celebrity-driven zeitgeist. You feel for André when he declares the season "a famine of beauty." You feel for the writer whose piece gets poohed poohed by Anna, but it's Grace who saves him, telling him, "You've got to be tougher."
Grace has the tough Vogue love down. The dynamic between Anna and Grace, who both started working at the fashion bible the same day, had the deepest resonance for Cutler. Cutler explained these women are "at the top of their game and go at it in the cause of beauty. They are changing their world." It's painful to see Grace go through the rejection emotions; it's empowering to see Anna make the decisions.
The director gained a respect and understanding of the infamous fashion industry — as does the watcher. RJ admitted to knowing nothing about fashion when started the project. "On one hand, fashion is frivolous, excessive, indulgent, and vain. It is also essential. It says something to the world. It drives economies — shipping, textiles, journalism, publishing, advertising. It affects the culture and contributes to the definition of beauty." Intrigued? See it, sunglasses off.