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SYNOPSIS: The First Monday in May follows the creation of The Metropolitan Museum of Art's most attended fashion exhibition in history, "China: Through The Looking Glass," an exploration of Chinese-inspired Western fashions by Costume Institute curator Andrew Bolton. With unprecedented access, filmmaker Andrew Rossi captures the collision of high fashion and celebrity at the Met Gala, one of the biggest global fashion events chaired every year by Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour. Should fashion be viewed as art, is the question.

Review by Louise Keller:
The proposition that fashion is art is the subject of this fabulous documentary that counts down to the Met Gala, the celebrity-packed opening night party to the Costume Institute's annual fashion exhibition. Costume Institute curator Andrew Bolton and Vogue Editor in Chief Anna Wintour are our guides as we track opinions and attitudes about creativity, historical facts about design and designers and more. In particular, the focus is the 2015 exhibition titled China: Through the Looking Glass, attended by more than 800,000, which raised $12.5 million for New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Fashion can create a fantasy: it's a kind of theatre, says Anna Wintour, who oversees everything - from the exhibition's conceptual elements to the opening night seating plan. We watch her at work, wearing a never-ending parade of high-fashion outfits, her trademark bob and dark glasses in tact. Her image as 'dragon lady' is explored. Her response to a question about The Devil Wears Prada may surprise some. As Baz Luhrmann is quick to point out (Luhrmann is Creative Consultant for the Met), Wintour's gift is her ability to cross-fertilise high and low culture.

Andrew Bolton is the film's main voice; he is still the kid from Lancashire who always aspired to do what he does and who clearly loves what he does. He is impressive: a likeable and informed presence who travels to Beijing, Paris, London and back to New York in preparation for the exhibition. There are discussions about art and fashion and how the latter is considered to be more in the female domain, which is why some deny its artistic merit. The phenomenally successful Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibition in May 2011 (after the controversial designer's suicide) took the immersive component to a new level and became the benchmark of success. Bolton describes how the provocative designer "tapped into the juncture between beauty, ugliness and terror".

We are flies on the wall during the lead up to the exhibition as we listen to Gala co-chair Wendi Deng (formerly Murdoch), designer John Galliano, who confesses that the creative process is his meditation and artistic director Wong Kar Wai, whose film In the Mood For Love was highly influential in the wake of films such as The Last Emperor and Raise The Red Lantern. Wong's vision for the show is that it is like a Chinese Garden. There are politics including ensuring that colonialism and orientalism are not misinterpreted as racist.

And of course there is the event itself, when the paparazzi flashbulbs dance their frenzy as they photograph all the celebrities, wearing designer finery. There's George and Amal, J-Lo, Jessica, Bradley, Jennifer (Lawrence), Reece, Sarah (Jessica Parker), Justin (Bieber), Kate (Hudson), Cher and Rihanna, who creates a sensation wearing a magnificent canary yellow gown trimmed with matching fur and a pink lining. The train floats behind her - seemingly for miles; designer Guo Pei took two long years to make the gown, which weighs 25kg.

But this doco is more than celebrity perving. It's a creatively explosive journey into the history of art, ideas, creativity and how we live.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
A fly on the wall doco in which the fly is no doubt dressed in Chinese silk, wearing fascinating jewellery ... and is dictating a thesis on the human condition as reflected in the world of art, fashion and celebrity. The question at the heart of this doco is: can fashion be viewed as art? The consensus answer seems to be 'sometimes'. If we accept (and I do) that one definition of art is something unique of lasting value, then of course fashion can be art.

In many ways the superficial attraction of this doco is secondary to the deeper resonances that reveal people as complex, contradictory and vulnerable beings. Anna Wintour, for example, the reigning queen of fashion and taste, described as domineering, comes across as a coffee-addicted and opinionated control freak. But not in a bad way. Andrew Rossi has craved a work of great interest with this doco, and Museum of Art Curator Andrew Bolton comes across as a visionary with a sense of destiny. His vision of historic Chinese art as a source of inspiration for fashion is robust, and pays homage to the vital role that cinema played in this.

And to confirm that role, he invited acclaimed Chines filmmaker Wong Kar Wai as a consultant, whose film In The Mood For Love had immense influence in the fashion world of the West.

Fascinating and tense - almost thriller like - First Monday in May offers more food for thought than you may anticipate.

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(US, 2016)

CAST: Documentary featuring Andrew Bolton, John Galliano, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Karl Lagerfeld, Baz Luhrmann, Rihanna, Anna Wintour, Kar-Wai Wong and others

PRODUCER: Fabiola Bercasa Beckman, Dawn Ostroff, Sylvana Ward Durrett, Matthew Weaver, Skot Bright

DIRECTOR: Andrew Rossi

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Bryan Sarkinen, Andrew Rossi

EDITOR: Chad Beck, Andrew Coffman, Andrew Rossi

MUSIC: Ian Hultquist, Sofia Hutquist

RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes



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