For anyone who watched “The September Issue” and loved the romanticism of Grace Coddington more than the business of being Anna Wintour, the just-released Mademoiselle C will be of interest. I would be lying if I said that I enjoyed it as much as the professional tussle between Anna and Grace but Carine Roitfield has always seemed something of an enigma and I was intrigued to know if we would actually get a proper glimpse into her life.
What we get is a pulsating 90 minutes into the rarefied world of Carine – former editor-in-chief of French Vogue, muse to Tom Ford, and as she calls herself, “queen of porno chic”. Director Fabien Constant chronicles the period between 2011 and 2012 as Roitfeld creates and launches her highly anticipated CR Fashion Book..an item which I did not move fast enough to get my hands on, grrrrr.
Constant, the mastermind behind the riveting Marc Jacobs & Louis Vuitton documentary and Sundance Channel’s “The Day Before” series, was given open access to both the professional and personal life of Roitfeld and the quiet, voyeuristic style he employed in his previous work comes across here in a big way. Whereas many fashion docs feature a series of talking heads interspersed with live footage, Mademoiselle C plays as if Roitfeld had invited you to join her group of style bandits in their quest for the fashion dreamworld – photographers, models, fashion designers, staff, and even family. As she prepares to “give birth” to the publication, her daughter Julia is also preparing to give birth to her first grandchild, we even get a sneak look at THAT famous pregnancy photo shoot. The idea of rebirth is alluded to often in both the film and the magazine, from a Bruce Weber photo shoot with model Kate Upton clutching baby chicks to her not insubstantial bosom, to a Tom Ford directed fairy-tale version of Sleeping Beauty complete with his actually housekeeper dragged into a starring role! Besides Ford, Roitfeld supporters Karl Lagerfeld and Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci make memorable appearances – one that particularly stands out is a scene of Lagerfeld pushing a stroller containing Roitfeld’s new granddaughter, Romy. For me that was worth the price of the ticket alone - Kaiser Karl's version of Daddy Daycare - his comment on the newborn by the way, "She doesn't have much conversation yet does she?"
“Mademoiselle C” captures the excitement and relentless of Roitfeld’s world – escorting Tisci to the Met Ball, producing a black-wardrobe only fashion show for the amfAR Gala at Cannes, taking private ballet lessons, OUCH – but it also portrays the less glamorous side of the publishing industry. Editors will appreciate the moment before launch when CR Fashion Book business partner and design director Steven Gan informs the team they are six pages over and the decision comes down to cutting words or images. The viewer never finds out what happens and I wanted more. Also during a crisis where the model for that night’s couture shoot has unexpectedly been called to Poland, Constant fixes his camera on the publication’s fashion editor, who works her phones for a solution while Roitfeld calmly sips her espresso and waits. These moments, as ordinary as they might seem, actually provide a more humanistic dimension to fashion publishing – something often missing from “The September Issue” or “The Devil Wears Prada.” Roitfeld always appears calm, gracious, warm, completely unconcerned with commerce – and refreshing although I did feel for her assistant trying desperately to fix a variety of problems. Perhaps it is easier to stay calm when one has a dedicated minion to hand?
As Roitfeld says in the beginning of the film, French Vogue was her “crown.” What comes next is entirely up to her. Lucky for me, through this film, I got to go along for a bit of the ride.