Mademoiselle C

Mademoiselle C

*****

Reviewed by: Anne-Katrin Titze

Fabien Constant's meticulously dashing portrait of Carine Roitfeld in Mademoiselle C works as a triple treat with style, beauty and grace.

We see the former Vogue Paris editor-in-chief during a wide array of activities, in public and in private. There are no clear lines of demarcation. Her family drops in at work meetings and Karl Lagerfeld is seen pushing a stroller. Lagerfeld also has an interesting conversation with his five-year-old godson about toys from the Ritz and gifts for his (in)famous cat Choupette. Roitfeld's daughter, Julia Restoin Roitfeld is pregnant and the baby girl Romy, Carine Roitfeld's first grandchild, is born during the filming of the documentary.


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We get to see Roitfeld, in 2012, practice ballet next to a bookshelf in her apartment in Paris with her teacher. "Never show it hurts - that's the dignity of dance," she says. She jokes around with her make-up artist while getting ready for the Met Costume Institute Gala in New York. And - most revealing of all - we get to see her at work.

After a decade as editor-in-chief of Vogue Paris ended with her resignation in December 2010, Constant's film shows Roitfeld embarking on a new project, putting together her own magazine, the CR Fashion Book in New York and facing an often hostile industry. Photographers under contract with Condé Nast were forbidden to work for her. Newspapers such as the Telegraph, Libération, and the New York Times reported on it and used the word "war".

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Who is Carine Roitfeld? A great style inspiration. A woman of many faces. Someone who is puzzled at the airport every time she has to fill out a US customs form. "I never know," Roitfeld says - she puts down "fashion editor" as profession. The title of Yves Montmayeur's revealing profile, Michael H Profession: Director, on cat lover and Academy Award winning director Michael Haneke comes to mind.

In an early scene, Roitfeld throws her arms around a shy young fan's neck, to pose for a picture. "You have to say: I love the camera!" she offers him as advice to relax. It is a beautiful, astonishing moment that shows her as caring and astute. "If you're not comfortable, you're never good," that, Carine told me during our interview, was good advice from Tom Ford with whom she revolutionised the industry through their daring Gucci adds.

At one point, while the film shows her after a fashion show, she is being compared to Benjamin Button, the F Scott Fitzgerald hero who ages in reverse. Riccardo Tisci of Givenchy calls her "a neo-punk" and photographer Terry Richardson gives a big thumbs up to the camera backstage at the Alexander Wang show (you can see him replicate that in our gallery from the film's premiere).

We get to accompany the birth of CR Fashion Book from the first editorial meeting. Will the theme be Dance or Life? What should be the name? How about a baby on the first cover to symbolise "the rebirth of fashion"? Will Bruce Weber add "maybe some baby dogs?", a wide-eyed Roitfeld asks.

"Fashion is changing into who you want to be" - freedom is cherished by this very Parisian style icon. "It's hard starting over," she admits, "I have my bag of tricks," tricks she didn't want to use for the new project, although she sometimes felt "like a horse who lost its stable."

Her art-dealer son Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld, who did not want to follow in his grandfather, Russian movie producer Jacques Roitfeld's footsteps and work in film, jokes about attractive mothers and says, "I find mine exceptionally beautiful". Even the reclusive founder of fashion label Equipment, Christian Restoin, Carine's partner for three decades and father of her children, speaks on camera and tells us that "her model is Coco Chanel," who started the second part of her career when she was almost 70. Roitfeld says "it's a great luxury" to have someone who listens to her, and that Restoin has always given her the best advice.

What became known during Roitfeld's Vogue years as "porno chic" and what she calls "erotic chic" is her styling of the "borderline politically correct and incorrect." She knows that "it's a fine line" and explains that her fantasies went into her fashion photos, her life was elsewhere.

At a Joseph Altuzarra studio visit, she finds dozens of photos of herself on the designer's mood board. The choice of score Constant selected in this scene is inspired - bird sounds, almost Disney chirps lift the mood right off the board. Roitfeld finds the same clothes she is wearing that day on the designer's inspiration wall. "An irreverent timeless dream" is more than a slogan for the magazine.

The film reaches another level when we watch her at work with "her favourite model", Lara Stone, feathers flying, trying to reach beyond the commercialism of the fashion industry. They discuss the slogan "fashion beyond clothes", Stone calls it "fashion beyond credit."

A church shoot has fake fainting turn real, nudity in a cemetery caused trouble in the past, and creative director Stephen Gan, president of Fashion Media Group, realises how many people cancelled their involvement with their new magazine because of pressure from Condé Nast. Gan recounts that photographer Bruce Weber was not one of them. "I'm a big boy and nobody tells me what the f…to do," Gan recalls Weber saying.

"Tons of babies", model Kate Upton in a very short Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz dress, puppies, a lovely little girl who looks like Romy Schneider, a baby donkey and a guy in a furry Brown Bear suit - Carine Roitfeld and Bruce Weber truly work their magic, even when the winning shot turns out to be a little wet. "Bruce loves people," she says and it couldn't be more obvious how much Roitfeld loves her work. "In ten years, these photos won't at all be outdated," she says about Weber's scintillating images.

Major fashion players weave in and out of the picture: Anna Dello Russo, editor-at-large and creative consultant for Vogue Japan, speaks in admiration of her colleague, "the sexiest grandmother on earth", and a bone-chilling Donatella Versace shows Roitfeld an assortment of gigantic cocktail rings.

Just when you might start to wonder who these people are, bidding hundreds of thousands of dollars on clothes with Kirsten Dunst and Harvey Weinstein applauding in the audience, at Carine Roitfeld's Cannes amfAR gala fashion show, the documentary whisks you away to a photo shoot with Karl Lagerfeld.

For CR in front of Lagerfeld's lens, classic models transform into French movie stars of the Sixties: Stephanie Seymour becomes Nathalie Delon, Linda Evangelista becomes Anna Karina, and Carolyn Murphy turns into Mireille Darc. While we watch the differing incarnations of beauty, Lagerfeld interacts with Roitfeld's baby granddaughter and talks about his family. "My mother married the milkman [one of Germany's biggest manufacturers of condensed milk, that is] not to ruin her bosom!"

Designer/director Tom Ford calls Carine "my ideal woman." She does a fashion fairy tale with Ford, who is directing the photo shoot and narrating the tale. "Carine and I have the same aesthetic, we have the same ideals of beauty." His housekeeper is coaxed to sit and cry in the picture.

Ford gives away the magic ingredient: "Most people are better when they work with Carine. She gives you the courage to try things." When she asks, "Can we do Africa in New York?" there's a chance it just might work.

Reviewed on: 11 Sep 2013
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Mademoiselle C packshot
Documentary about former Vogue Paris editor-in-chief and fashion stylist Carine Roitfeld.
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Director: Fabien Constant

Starring: Tom Ford, Donatella Versace, Karl Lagerfeld, Carine Roitfeld

Year: 2013

Runtime: 93 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: France

Festivals:

Black Nights 2013

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