NZ International Film Festival Review: The First Monday in May

The First Monday in May premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival
The First Monday in May premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival

The First Monday in May is every bit as lavish as you'd expect from a documentary about the Met Gala, the annual star-studded fundraising extravaganza for the New York museum's Costume Institute.

But the film also delves beyond the sequins, excessive trains and towering shoes. At its core it seeks to justify fashion as an art form, following the institute's then-associate curator Andrew Bolton as he navigates the cultural and political fishhooks of 2015's China: Through the Looking Glass exhibition, which featured works essentially appropriating ancient Chinese culture.

Whether you believe the film succeeds in its mission depends whether you accept that the Met and its featured designers including Galliano, Lagerfeld and Gaultier, have eschewed the stereotypes of Orientalism and instead honoured the culture and creative inspiration it provides.

It's a complex debate, nigh on impossible to address in writing, let alone on screen; but The First Monday in May gives it a decent shot.

Andrew Rossi - director of the acclaimed documentary Page One: Inside the New York Times - once again shows his skill at navigating the complex internal politics of a large, well-established organisation.

And rest assured that, albeit in a slightly less central role than she had in The September Issue, Vogue's indomitable editor-in-chief Anna Wintour gets plenty of screen time to amuse and inspire as the gala's party planner extraordinaire - and probably the only person in New York who could get away with walking through one of the world's finest museums clutching a comically large Starbucks coffee.

The First Monday in May doesn't just depict opulence; it radiates it. Wide-angle lenses, steadicam shots and extreme closeups of intricate detail bring us closer to the unattainable.

It's wide-ranging but insightful, expansive but detailed, and with just enough eye candy and celeb seating drama to satisfy the shameless voyeurs in all of us.

Four stars.

This film is playing as part of the 2016 New Zealand International Film Festival.

     The First Monday in May:: Director: Andrew Rossi:: Rating: Exempt:: Running Time: 91 minutes

Reviewed by Kim Choe/Newshub.

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