The September Issue: An Infomercial for Vogue

When earlier this decade I worked as a freelancer for a publication two floors below Vogue, each sighting of Anna Wintour was terrifying enough to immobilize me. Wintour's arctic imperiousness has 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, which, at 840 pages, was the largest in Vogue's history. Who knows why the infamously aloof editor chose to cooperate—to do Miranda Priestly better than Meryl Streep?—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 two years ago was. The September 2009 Vogue has 256 fewer pages than 2007's; owner S.I. Newhouse recently 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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