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Featured DVD Review: The September Issue

February 21st, 2010

The September Issue - Buy from Amazon

The September Issue is a documentary about the September issue of Vogue magazine, widely considered the bible of fashion. As anyone who knows me (or the clothes I normally wear) is aware, my knowledge of fashion is zero. It's less than zero. This film, therefore, has a tough road to travel to win me over. But, as always, I remain open-minded.

The director R.J. Cutler (who previously produced The War Room) got significant behind-the-scenes access to the Vogue offices as they prepared to make the 2007 September Issue, which apparently takes seven months to make. This process starts during the Fashion Week festivities that take place in New York, Paris, Madrid, London, and other cosmopolitan venues. Anna Wintour is in the middle of it from the beginning. Her second-in-command, so to speak, is Grace Coddington, whose relationship with Anna Wintour is the heart of the film (or at least it's the part I enjoyed the most). These two clearly have a lot of respect for each other, even if they've known each other far too long to bother with all aspects of civility at times. I also found interesting the process of creating the Fashion Bible and the amount of power Anna Wintour wields in the industry.

On the other hand, the film never seems to go below the surface. Granted, fashion by its very nature is superficial, but I would like a more in-depth look here. Conversely, fashion is a rather silly enterprise, but almost everyone here treats it seriously. Practically the only one who makes fun of the whole deal is Katherine "Bee" Wintour, Anna's daughter. I remember in The Devil Wears Prada, Miranda Priestly gives a speech about all the hard work that goes into choosing the perfect shade of blue. So? Had someone else done it and chosen Periwinkle over Maya Blue, would it really have made a huge difference? Unless someone comes up with an advancement in the materials used, for the most part it is all aesthetics. It's all style, no substance.

That said, just as a look at the process it is interesting, even for someone whose idea of putting together an outfit involves grabbing a random T-shirt, a random pair of shorts, and finishing out my ensemble with a housecoat and slippers. (Telecommuting to work rocks.)

Extras on the first disc of the DVD include an audio commentary track with the director, R.J. Cutler, who manages to mostly drown the track with information. He does on occasion stop to let the viewer listen to the original audio, but only to emphasize a point and not because he ran out of things to say. There are also four deleted scenes, one for each of the four main subjects: Anna Wintour, Grace Coddington, Andre Leon Talley, and Thakoon. Finally, there is an image gallery. On the second disc we find more deleted scenes broken up into the same four categories as disc one, plus a section for the Sienna Miller cover shoot. The amount of deleted scenes on the DVD is actually longer than the movie itself, so there's an impressive amount of extras.

The Verdict

If you are looking for an investigative journalist's look at the world of fashion, this isn't it. But if you are interested in a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the Fashion Bible, The September Issue delivers. Add in plenty of extras, and the DVD is worth checking out for most, picking up for many.

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Filed under: Video Review, The September Issue