Monday, February 4, 2013

September Issue: the magic behind making teenage boys read their mother's magazines

Perhaps I should've seen Devil Wears Prada before viewing September Issue, although I've heard the documentary is something of a belated spin-control response to DWP, and attempt to set the record straight with an all access pass behind the scenes at the managing editorial offices for the long standing and trend setting / validating institution that is Vogue  Magazine, more precisely, to perhaps debunk Meryl Streep's fictionalized portrayal of Chief Editor and Resident Warrior Queen Anna Wintour.
Although, I hadn't, and perhaps that lack of preparatory bias has allowed me to instead compare and contrast what ended up in the documentary and what ended up on its nearly as full to the inseam accompanying Special Features disc.
The documentary is something of a whirlwind, and frankly, I would have appreciated and enjoyed seeing far more of how meetings and discussions turned out instead of feeling like the benevolent cameraman Bob with his sacred belly and his cohorts were cutting together a succession of highlight reels. That said, the documentary does do a solid job of introducing us to the key players on Anna's team, and further demonstrating that where Anna might be the brains, cold and calculating, Grace Coddington is the Heart, artistic and impassioned, while others make up the liver, spleen, and even the soul, pardon the pun. And though I would have liked more fly on the wall, and less perception that folks were playing shy or nice in front of the invasive documentarians' cameras, I do think the film succeeds describing the organism that governs a far larger organism of the magazine that in turn feeds and feeds off of the even larger organic structure of popular culture, tastes, and trying to make some marketable sense of the general popular lack of either.
Like most everything I've learned in life about art, illustration, photography, architecture, and even World War 2; I first learned about high fashion by indirect exposure while perusing my Mom's discarded issues of Vogue because I'd noticed a collision between sheer fabrics and a general late 70's - early 80's models' aversion to bras. While my interests in art, fashion, illustration, design, and everything else have developed, broadened, matured, enriched and informed my personal and professional life, there is no getting around the fact that pretty much everything I know started with the simple quest of a boy hoping to catch a view of a boob.
And that's a decent analogy to the companion DVD, the Special Features disk that is a pancake stack of clips and outtakes that make the experience richer, deeper, and far more enlightening. The documentary shows you a crafted perspective on who runs the show. The second disc alternately demonstrates more about who the people are, and how their respective processes work. More meat and potatoes, if you will.
Take for instance Andre Leon Talley. In the documentary portion, he's proffered to an the uninitiated audience that is I as a flamboyant, vain, out of shape Prada poster child. A stereotype standing well over 6 feet tall and weighing in at well over 300 carrots of gold and diamonds. Almost didn't watch his section on the second disc, and what a mistake I almost made! The second disc, meat and potatoes remember, demonstrates a man with a lot of layers, history, and personae he can turn on an off as needed to survive and excel at his job. The documentary used him as a distraction, perhaps, or to lighten the mood, a boob to look at if you will, and yet there is so much more to the man, and vicariously through seeing his visit to a fashion school, to Paris with the documentary crew, and assisting with setting up high end exotic antiques at a specialty shop you discover that like him or not, he shouldn't be dismissed as a loud mouthpiece for the nigh immortal elven queen, even if sometimes that is another role he has to play.
The real takeaway for me though is through Grace's segments. She's damn amazing, and the way she draws every dress and outfit she sees blows me away. Thinking she must have books floating around for this stuff, found that she does, however, a bit pricey for my video game designer's salary, can't even afford back issues of Vogue on those wages. She does have another tome more within my mercantile allowance, a sort of high fashion equivalent to the "Hang In There" kitten poster, really.
And I would be remiss not to mention how impressed, awed even, by Anna and Grace as both of them have massive routines, deal with metric tons of stuff and no-nonsense, and are both past the age most folks retire. Grace, born 1941, seems to handle her age with a vibrancy that speaks to an inner fire as brilliant as her out of control signature red mane. Anna, born 1949, is according to reports typically up at 6 am for tennis and to bed by 10 pm daily, never stays for more than the first 20 minutes of any party, and eats protein exclusively for lunches. By protein I did not mean kittens or babies, though I've found a few blogs that might have you believe so, she's got quite a reputation turns out.
As a child I simply adored the planet of the apes films, even the mercifully short lived TV series, and sometimes thought the chimpanzee doctor lady had it going on, yet found the inflexibility of her upper lip somewhat disconcerting. There were moments when Anna spoke to people, especially when she had her corrective sunglasses on, that her quest to remain forever young combined with her stiff upper lip reminded me of the chimpanzee lady's facial makeup. Maybe that's just me.
Any rate, though a bit light on expose, the documentary, especially factoring in the second disc, is quite illuminating, and I'm looking forward to Devil Wears Prada's potentially biased or skewed (or generous depending on who's blog you read) portrayal of Anna Wintour, one of the most powerful women in fashion today.

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