Chick Flicks

Two chick-ish flicks in two days:

First, September Issue, the documentary about the creation of the Sept. 2007 issue wintour-coddingtonof Vogue, starring the empress/dragon lady of the fashion world, Anna Wintour. It’s always interesting to get a glimpse of a workplace so different from one’s own, yet all offices are the same in some ways. Different: enormous amounts of money spent on photo shoots, a decent-size staff, closets full of sample products. The same: simmering resentments, desperately trying and failing to please the boss, lots of work for nothing, Starbucks.

Like everyone, I believed every word I read in The Devil Wears Prada, and so couldn’t help comparing the actual Vogue offices to the fictional version; naturally I found the real thing lacking. Firstly, Wintour is somewhat soft-spoken, has a sense of humor, and — though obviously feared and catered to — comes off as an actual person. Albeit an actual person with an enormous sense of entitlement. Also, the people who work for her, while certainly stylish (in Andre Leon Talley’s case, dramatically so), clearly aren’t expected to be as pulled together  as Anna herself. Why, there’s messy hair; pale, unmade-up faces; wrinkles! I think I even spotted an assistant wearing flats…

I’d read that Vogue’s longtime creative director Grace Coddington was initially hesitant  to be filmed for the movie. Good thing she eventually acquiesced because she’s the heart and soul of the thing: a wry, earthy, ultra-talented woman who’s managed to develop a smooth working relationship with Wintour. Nice that her work has been validated in such a public way.

Bright StarNext flick: Bright Star, Jane Campion’s gorgeously atmospheric account of the romance between poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne, who were neighbors in early 19th century Hampstead. Abbie Cornish is wonderful as the witty, headstrong Fanny (I remember seeing her in little-known indie film Somersault and marveling at this beautiful, unmannered young actress). She’s like a Jane Austen heroine gone a bit bohemian. As Keats, Ben Whishaw does the starving young poet thing well, though I kept flashing back to his tortured character in Perfume, a movie I strongly disliked, to say the least. Then there’s the poetry itself, sprinkled liberally throughout the movie, a reminder of how transcendent Keats’ words really were.

And the clothes! The Regency era was the best-dressed period of the 19th century, hands-down. And Fanny, a seamstress and clotheshorse, puts together some amazing outfits for herself, involving diaphanous fabrics, detailed pleating and voluminous sleeves. I want to watch this movie with a Tim Gunn commentary.

Of course the story is a tragic one, as John and Fanny’s romance is doomed by 1) his lack of money and 2) his contraction of consumption (tuberculosis), like several artists of his era. Back then, coughing up blood was practically mandatory for romantic poets and composers. What better way to show off one’s delicate nature and tenuous grasp of earthly things.

Anyway, not a total sob-fest of a movie, but quite moving.


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September 2009
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