The September Issue

When, in the early part of this decade, I worked as a freelancer for a publication two floors below Vogue, each of my sightings of Anna Wintour was terrifying enough to immobilize me. Wintour’s arctic imperiousness had a way of creating the most masochistic deference, a dynamic that R.J. Cutler superficially explores — and becomes prone to — in The September Issue. Cutler was granted full access by Wintour to film the creation of her magazine’s September 2007 issue that, at 840 pages, was the largest ever in Vogue‘s history. Who knows why the infamously aloof editor chose to cooperate, but her blessing seems to account for her kind treatment here. Grace Coddington, Vogue‘s creative director and the only one who dares to say no to Wintour, emerges as The September Issue‘s true star. If it feels perverse to cheer when Coddington’s lavish visions ultimately dominate the issue, it’s a reminder of what a completely different era it was two years ago. The September 2009 Vogue has 256 fewer pages than 2007’s; last month, S.I. Newhouse called in consulting firm McKinsey & Co. to audit Condé Nast’s spending. “I get very angry,” Wintour notes about the demands of her position. “When I find myself getting really angry, I’ll leave.” The choice may not be hers to make.

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