Blu-ray Review: Mademoiselle C (2013)

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Because babies are used to sell magazines all the time, the image of a newborn on the cover of a magazine wouldn’t normally be a potential source of controversy except when the woman opting for the photo is none other than ‘90s fashion “Queen of Porn Chic” turned former French “Vogue” editor Carine Roitfeld.

After ten years at the helm of “Vogue,” Roitfeld left her predecessor to give birth metaphorically, using the picture to announce “the rebirth of fashion” on the inaugural issue of her riskiest professional venture yet with the debut of her very own magazine “CR Fashion Book.”

Obviously the photo is the ideal visual accompaniment to tie in the theme of rebirth that lies throughout the premiere periodical. Yet at the same time, it also holds a large amount of personal significance for Roitfeld as well as we learn in Fabien Constant’s fascinating documentary Mademoiselle C, which chronicles not only the endlessly inspiring preparation for the birth of “CR Fashion Book” but also the birth of her very first grandchild via her daughter, who serves as one of Roitfeld’s many muses.

A refreshingly honest, warmhearted and gifted subject in her own right who’s always on the hunt for the next great idea or collaborator, Roitfeld herself has served as the muse and collaborator of many of the most famous names in fashion.

Perhaps best known as Tom Ford’s “ideal woman” and seemingly perfect Virgo twin with whom she created the infamous porno or erotic chic aesthetic so often associated with her name, we also follow Roitfeld on her journey to events around the world celebrating the publication of a gorgeous, Chanel focused oversized art book devoted to The Little Black Jacket that she coauthored with Karl Lagerfeld.

Getting the unique opportunity to know not only Roitfeld personally but also see such fashion icons let their guard down through her eyes, documentarian Constant shares candid footage of creative minds at work, at play and in conversation.

A visually intoxicating film for fashion and art lovers, admittedly Mademoiselle C does suffer a bit from its lack of a concrete focus in trying to take on the entire fashion world she engages in on a daily basis in the limited span of its 93 minute running time.

While it likewise would’ve been immensely helpful to both fashion’s faithful and the uninitiated alike to begin with a more solid introduction to our subject rather than just depositing us right into the room with her after the most cursory of explanations since we’re left to piece together biographical and professional details by random snippets of dialogue here and there, given the end result of the film, it’s easy to forgive.

The daughter of a film producer father and script supervisor mother, although Carine Roitfeld had wanted her son to follow in the family’s cinematic footsteps (he chose the related field of art instead), it doesn’t take very long for viewers to realize that in a way, Roitfeld has carried this torch herself.

Happiest, as she confesses, making images including composing some hauntingly majestic layouts that pull you in two emotionally contradictory directions at the same time, Mademoiselle C is sure to appeal to anyone who’s ever looked at the pages of a “Vogue” photo shoot and wondered how such beauty was achieved.

A distant cousin to film, art and theater – it’s in the visually challenging photo shoots that the documentary really grabs you, far more than any red carpet celebrity event.

A welcome and rare opportunity to not only see the artistry come to life but also be a fly-on-the-wall during that entire process from the inception of ideas to explore through the lens to the challenge of executing the perfection that lives in your mind, Constant’s own cameras capture what is without question living art and one of the most underappreciated mediums as both cinematographers and painters (just to name two related professions) could learn a lot with Roitfeld as a muse.

And although it’s safe to say that she’ll continue to inspire generations of designers who call her “the sexiest woman in fashion,” thanks to Mademoiselle C, viewers realize that what makes Roitfeld so enchanting isn’t simply her looks. No, the most seductive thing about this gorgeous grandmother is the way she uses her beautiful mind to breathe new life into fashion, one (baby) cover at a time.

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