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Sundance 2009: “The September Issue.”

Sundance 2009: “The September Issue.” (photo)

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There’s a moment in “The September Issue” in which it seems, perhaps, that Miss Anna Wintour regrets. She’s just explained that her siblings work in global labor organization, in arranging low-income housing and as the political editor of the Guardian. “My brothers and sister are very amused by what I do,” she says, biting her lip, and for a second you believe that “Nuclear” Wintour, the famously glacial, controlling and all-powerful editor-in-chief of American Vogue, secretly wishes she’d gotten a medical degree and went off to Sudan with Doctors Without Borders. And then you don’t, because throughout R.J. Cutler’s documentary, which spans the assembling of the 2007 September issue of Vogue, the largest and most important of the year, Wintour keeps such a tight rein on how she’s portrayed that even moments of vulnerability seem calculated. It’s not much of a complaint — I would have loved a bit more depth, a bit more of something from the film, which skims merrily along the surface of its captivating topic, but the more you see of Wintour, the more it becomes clear that a creature that eats, sleeps and breathes media simply does not have unguarded moments in front of the camera.

Fortunately, “The September Issue” also has Grace Coddington, a former fashion model who’s now what a colleague calls the world’s greatest stylist, who’s Vogue‘s creative director and the one staff member unafraid to tell Wintour what she actually thinks — the others simper in constant terror and fold immediately when challenged. In a telling moment, Coddington confesses that she complained about her budget in front of the “September Issue” camera crew deliberately, as having such a think caught on tape is the only way to force Wintour to dole out more cash, the two yanking the doc team into their career-long push-pull without hesitation, an act that’s later echoed by the cameraman being enlisted in a shoot. Brash and down-to-earth, Coddington is the accessible answer to Wintour’s immaculate deadpan, and “The September Issue”‘s a warmer place because of her. But more interesting than any human drama are the instances we see of Vogue‘s power and place in the fashion industry. What the magazine does goes far beyond the realms of journalism in any sense. Wintour actively critiques and shapes the collections of established design houses before they’re completed; she hooks Thakoon, a young designer she likes, up with a career-making gig because she can; she runs interference on behalf of stores like Neiman Marcus when they need items that are actually wearable, not just hyper-stylish. It seems like a closed and terribly small bubble, until you realize that outside the camera’s gaze is a whole world that will feel the impact of the decisions being made by such a select group of people, by, often, just one woman, even if it’s only in what everyone chooses to wear.

“The September Issue” currently has no U.S. distribution. See all of’s Sundance coverage here.

[Photo: “The September Issue,” A&E IndieFilms, 2009]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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