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The First Monday in May - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
The First Monday in May
Directing: B+
Writing: B+
Cinematography: B+
Editing: A-

The only disappointing thing about writing a review for The First Monday in May is the difficulty in finding a screenshot online that does the movie any kind of justice at all. Even the online press kit on the film's official website, bizarrely, comes up short. You'll just have to take my word for it: particularly for those of us ignorant of fashion, this movie is a delightful surprise.

The title refers to the timing of the annual Met Gala, the annual, star-studded benefit for the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute. This movie, more specifically, presents unprecedented access to the people working behind the scenes to create the 2015 art exhibition China: Through the Looking Glass. Director Andrew Rossi spends a lot of time with curator Andrew Bolton and event chair Anna Wintour, among a host of others.

In the beginning, we have pretty standard documentary scenes: people having meetings, sitting around at tables and discussing the beginning stages of planning. But this particular exhibition ultimately proves to be about three times the size of any other done before, with intricate and complex themes of how Western and Eastern sensibilities intersect in China-influenced fashion. The more Bolton talks about his vision for the exhibition, the more interesting it sounds. Wintour, for her part, is a frequent presence onscreen, and she exudes the kind of power that indicates the world needs more women like her in leadership positions. That woman has her shit together, both ruthless and gracious when the situation necessitates.

I might not have seen this film if not for having been given the chance to see an advance screening. Now I'm here to tell you it's worth paying for. I'm not usually all that interested in the Asian art in museums; I know nothing of and have nearly zero interest in fashion; combining the two and putting them through the context of celebrity culture hardly sounds like an enhancement. The expectations thus set do this incredibly well-edited film a disservice. By the end, I was bemoaning the fact that I never had a chance to see this exhibition.

Rare is the movie that can take a museum exhibition and turn it into an effective climax sequence. The night of the Gala, with the stars in their gowns on the red carpet walking through stunningly designed entryways and then on to jaw-dropping exhibits, is a sight to behold. The design aesthetic scene in these scenes are alone worth watching this movie: not just the outfits put on display themselves, but the care taken in the overall design of each room. They have distinctive looks, distinctive moods. It turns fashion into truly viable art.

There is a lot of discussion about whether fashion is art, which comes across at first as a little tedious. If someone can put a urinal in the middle of a room and call it art, why can't the same be done with gorgeous artistry on garments? Art is all about context and presentation anyway. When the day of the Gala arrives, and the stars are arriving, there's an exhilaration that seems to come out of nowhere. Plus, it's fun to watch clueless stars like Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber react to the exhibits. They hired Rihanna to perform, and her arrival in an amazing dress that took two years to make is an event unto itself. (If I knew more about fashion, I might remember the designer, but I don't.)

There is a fascinating formality to the proceedings. This is all very high-brow stuff, which actually makes it a little refreshing to see a few of the stars at the Gala not taking everything too seriously. One might wonder how many of them have an appreciation for the themes in the exhibition, with all their very intellectual intents. All I can tell you, really, is that it's gorgeous, a singular vision of cross-pollinated beauty. That's what The First Monday in May itself becomes.

Andrew Bolton makes sure nothing is out of place for THE FIRST DAY IN MAY.

Overall: B+
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