Reviews

On the Fashion World's Most Influential & Dysfunctional of Families: 'In Vogue: The Editor's Eye'

In Vogue: The Editor's Eye is partly reverent and partly antic. It's an appropriate mix, leaving the insiders to seem elusive and focused, women artists who understand themselves as such, or perhaps as art embodied.


In Vogue: The Editor's Eye

Director: Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato
Cast: Anna Wintour, Vera Wang, Marc Jacobs, Grace Coddington, Hamish Bowles, Nicholas Ghesquiere, Polly Mellen
Rated: NR
Studio: HBO Documentary Films
Year: 2012
US date: 2012-12-06 (HBO)
Website

"If you don't know now, I guess you never will. Haven't you spoken to everybody?" Grace Coddington sighs with mild impatience. She appears near the end of a string of seconds-long bits, fashion editors at Vogue being asked what a fashion editor does. Coddington sits close to the wide angle in a kitchen, her red hair wide, her shirt green, her designer sink spout prominent in the frame. "I didn't even know that they existed," offers Camilla Nickerson, smiling and looking off screen before she nearly pitches out of frame. "I can't answer that question, it would take too long," says Phyllis Posnick, farther back in the frame, black slacks and sweater on a white sofa, with white coffee table and super-stylish chair-and-lamp perfectly arranged around her. "How we get there is almost impossible to explain."

And so In Vogue: The Editor's Eye begins, partly reverent and partly antic. It's an appropriate mix, leaving the insiders to seem elusive and focused, women artists who understand themselves as such, or perhaps as art embodied. "They give us access to another world, they give us access to dreams," enthuses Nicole Kidman, "It's our way of living in a different world for a short period of time, and how beautiful is that?" She spreads her hands as she speaks, so immaculately made up and gorgeously outfitted that she illustrates her own point, pretending to live in that different world while also living in it too. As Kidman appears here, she's us and not us, she's them and not them.

It's a paradox that defines and undefines "fashion," as idea and industry. It's only a moment into the film when Anna Wintour proclaims fashion "a reflection of our time. Fashion can tell you everything that's going on in our world." She would say that, of course, and she can afford to believe it, but the film grants her assessment some credence, however fleeting. Part of this fleeting effect emerges in the documentary's structure: it briefly introduces a series of editors, deemed representatives of eras, or maybe just significant moments for the magazine, with interviews and examples of their work. Occasioned by the magazine's 120th anniversary, this sort of overview is at once celebratory and mildly curious, more a spread in itself than a follow-around narrative like, say R.J. Cutler's The September Issue.

That's not to say the film is without questions. As various editors look back on their processes, they're not so much explaining themselves or their art as they are reminding you of what you've likely already seen. Thus Coddington describes the thinking -- sort of -- behind the "Alice in Wonderland": "Fairy stories are quite dark actually, so they're interesting to illustrate." Just so, the model Natalia Vodiiana asserts she's a "big fan" of Coddington's work, and appreciated the rigors of the Wonderland assignment: "She sent me the books to read before we did the shoot, there were months of research and conversation, and then I am the lucky one who gets to appear in the picture."

While you might take such narrating as an indication that the pictures -- still and always -- speak for themselves, the film does gesture toward a couple of off-screen dilemmas, say, the tensions inherent in the work, for women. Both objects and subjects in the art, surrounded by men in an industry and culture that make well known demands, the women fashion editors here appear near film's end as they assemble for a portrait of themselves, taken by Annie Leibovitz (those who speak make the predictable complaint, that they're uncomfortable in front of the camera).

Those tensions sometimes erupt, as in the 1995 spread on "The Empowered Woman," controversial for its depictions of models on crutches and wearing braces. Looking back now, editor Nickerson says of the higher-than-high heels at the spread's center, "They're meant to Indicate power and stature and they leave you immobile, but I love wearing them myself." She sort of laughs, then adds, "People who were disabled found it offensive, but I thought it actually was sort of kind of quite handsome, in a way."

It may be the case that the artist is not the best or only judge of art's effects, that such effects resonate beyond intention or hope. It may also be that the specific art of fashion remains both misunderstood and too often dismissed, by those who make it and those who judge it.

7

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image