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ANNA’S MOUNTAIN HIGH: At a Sundance Film Festival crammed with films about the human condition, international political strife and old-fashioned romance, a documentary about the fashion world is causing the biggest buzz. “The September Issue,” R.J. Cutler’s two-year-long project about the making of Vogue’s September 2007 edition, oversold at its Friday premiere and three public screenings between Friday and Sunday, and its press and industry screening played to a packed house on Saturday. There are two more screenings on Wednesday and Sunday. The 89-minute film will air this year on A&E at a yet to be determined date.
Several people who bought tickets to the Friday premiere in Salt Lake City, a 45-minute drive from the festival headquarters in Park City, were turned away because there were more ticket holders than available seats.
One studio executive who paid for tickets, which cost several hundred dollars each, said the $5,000 all-access pass holders get precedence at any screening, and if all of them happen to be interested in a particular movie, then ticket holders are out of luck. Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour arrived late into town so she didn’t make Friday’s premiere, but did show up at the late-night premiere of the Mexican soccer comedy “Rudo y Cursi,” starring Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal, and a casual dinner on Main Street. She attended a public screening of her magazine’s documentary on Saturday afternoon, held in a converted temple and, along with publisher Tom Florio and Cutler, walked a mini press line set up in an upstairs reading room, shielded from any uninvited paparazzi. And the obvious question about the editor of a major fashion magazine was: What was she wearing? Wintour, clad in a leather Michael Kors jacket with a fox collar, an Oscar de la Renta turtleneck, J Brand jeans and Manolo Blahnik boots, said she was “channeling mountain casual. It is actually my first time wearing jeans to work.” But a relaxed Wintour was quick to deflect the spotlight back to Cutler, who also produced the award-winning documentaries “The War Room” and “A Perfect Candidate.”
“This is very much R.J.’s film. I want to make it very clear that he had complete freedom to put together the movie that he wanted and it’s not in any way Vogue behind him telling him what he can and cannot do,” she said. Asked if she placed any restrictions on filming or editing, Wintour replied, “He showed us the film a little while ago and we made a few suggestions, all of which he ignored.”
For his part, Cutler said, “I don’t know that I’ve ignored them all but I will say that everyone was incredibly supportive of my vision and also very open with their opinions.”
The film has garnered mostly positive reviews, though some have commented that Vogue appeared to be given the kid-glove treatment due to the admiring portrayals of Wintour and creative director Grace Coddington. September 2007 cover girl Sienna Miller didn’t fare as well, drawing criticism for her hair and teeth (pre-hairstyling and retouching). Also featured is Thakoon Panichgul, as the film recorded Wintour’s support of him through the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund GAP collaboration, editing his white shirt sketches, and revealed how she brokered a well-paid consulting gig for him at the Spanish company Mango. “I’m always fascinated by people who are very good at what they do,” said Cutler. “I learned that the fashion industry is a lot of things. It’s glamorous and workaday, exhilarating and exhausting, exciting and thrilling, and rewarding and tough.”
When asked if Wintour intimidated him at their first meeting, Cutler said, “You try to focus on your curiosity. But I wore all new clothes and I got my first manicure.” — Marcy Medina