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In Vogue: The Editor's Eye: TV Review

 In Vogue: The Editor's Eye - TV Still - H 2012
A Vogue photo shoot

The Bottom Line

Less an illuminating portrait of what it takes to be a fashion editor than a nostalgic and self-congratulatory look back at the history of a storied magazine.

Airdate

9 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6 (HBO)

Directed and produced by

Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato

 

Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour is among those featured in an HBO documentary about the legendary women's fashion magazine.

Is the mere mention of the names Babs Simpson, Grace Coddington, Tonne Goodman, Phyllis Posnick, Jade Hobson, Carlyne Cerf, Polly Mellen or Camilla Nickerson enough to elicit feelings of awe within your very soul? If so, you are probably the target audience for In Vogue: The Editor's Eye, a new collaboration between HBO and the legendary women's fashion magazine.

For those of you still drawing a blank as to why any one of these women should qualify as the focus of a documentary, all of the aforementioned have worked as fashion editors at Vogue in the last 50 years, each helping to conceive some of the world's most enduring style images.

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"It seemed to me that we could celebrate Vogue, celebrate the history of women, and also, at the same time, celebrate these great, great editors," Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour says in a cut-away shot from a film that feels less like a gripping exploration of our heroines' artistic processes than a nostalgic, in-house promotional video to mark the magazine's 120th anniversary.

Produced and directed by Fenton Bailey (Becoming Chaz, Inside Deep Throat) and Randy Barbato (Wishful Drinking, They Eyes of Tammy Faye), In Vogue sketches out the magazine's storied history at breakneck pace.

In a segment devoted to former editor-in-chief Diana Vreeland, for instance, Hamish Bowles, the current International editor-at-large, sums up her astonishing legacy in a few throwaway lines.

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"Vreeland expresses a kind of giddy, liberated, crazy youth-quake moment of the '60s," Bowles, his arms folded across his be-suited chest, tells the camera.

Amid fascinating archival footage that chronicles how Vogue's pages often mirrored rise of the women's movement in America, the film ultimately hones in on editorial underlings of the likes of Vreeland and Wintour.

While fashion devotees may relish getting a quick look at the women whose editorial choices have shaped the magazine, the overall effect of presenting so many stories in just over an hour is that they all tend to blur together.

One exception is Nickerson, who dreams up a legendary Helmut Newton photo shoot of women crippled by the extreme high heels she finds "impossible to walk on."

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"Some people who were disabled found it offensive," Nickerson says of the affecting pictures of models using crutches and leg braces to stand, "but I thought that it actually was, sort of, kind of ... quite handsome in a way."

You find yourself wanting much more of the particulars of each woman's story and less of the overinflated pronouncements from these giants of the profession.

"Time is such a precious part of our life, to be able to freeze a moment, whether it is conjured or whether it is spontaneous is kind of a gift," Goodman says in one sequence.

Strange, then, that a film about a magazine that has so often lead the way could feel so, well, rushed.