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The September Issue 時尚惡魔的聖經

Audiences of the new fashion documentary “The September Issue” looking for a Prada-wearing Devil are likely to be disappointed. Director R.J. Cutler's film tracks Vogue magazine's legendary Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour and her team in the calm before the economic storm as they put together the single largest magazine in history — the glossy 840-page September 2007 issue. The film provides an inside look at how the complex editorial world covers the fashion elite for 13 million readers a month.

But Wintour, rather than the fashion industry, is the film's undeniable star. Dubbed the “pope” by the staff, Wintour is portrayed as a business-savvy queen bee, infamous poker face aside, launching new talents through an obvious love for her job.

Cutler shows that while Wintour might trample egos and crush spirits in her course, it's all in the service of preserving her artistic vision. Wintour has a knack for reducing others to silence, as seen during a cringe-inducing scene with YSL's Stefano Pilati, but she's also generous with her time in mentoring up-and-coming talents and throwing coveted opportunities to newcomers.

At the heart of the film, however, is the story of the relationship between Wintour and Vogue Creative Director Grace Coddington, a 68-year-old model-turned-stylist with a tousled auburn mane who joined the magazine the same day as Wintour 20 years ago.

The old-fashioned romantic is the Darcy-esque heroine of the movie: Coddington whips up whimsical editorial spreads and upstages Wintour with her endearing candor and defiance.

Cutler captures the tension between art and commerce as the creative director labors to materialize her reveries during photo shoots with great élan, only to see her sulking after Wintour has cut her work. Despite their love-hate status — complete with the occasional sparring and awkward silences — both women are lavish in their praise and appreciation of one another (the sincerity of which is unclear).

“The September Issue” crackles with energy as it straddles the public addiction to celebrity vérité with the visual glamour of a parade of editors and models swathed in the latest couture.

The documentary features an entourage of griping underlings, and cameos by fashion heavyweights Karl Lagerfeld and Oscar de la Renta, while Vogue Editor-at-Large Andre Leon Talley and bootlicking yes-man, Design Editor Charlie Churchward offer comic relief.

On the other hand, Cutler does not employ the impressive cast to delve into the nitty-gritty of industry politics. Moviegoers will find the movie less revealing about the day-to-day operations of Vogue and more focused on the personalities who run it. The director milks every detail, allowing every glance and voice inflection to speak volumes.

Whether Wintour hoped the movie would thaw her frosty public image is hard to tell, but “The September Issue” does capture the magic of the US$300 billion-a-year fashion industry, and Wintour's puppet-master role at the center of it all. Devout subscribers of the so-called “Fashion Bible” will leave yearning for more, while agnostics will walk away entertained and impressed.

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 The September Issue 時尚惡魔的聖經 
“The September Issue” tracks Vogue's legendary Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour, center, and her team in the calm before the economic storm as they put together the single largest magazine in history — the glossy 840-page September 2007 issue. (Courtesy of Swallow Wings Films Co.)

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