'The First Monday in May' is another thoughtful fashion doc - Metro US

‘The First Monday in May’ is another thoughtful fashion doc

The First Monday in May
Andrew Bolton fusses over one of the pieces in last year's Met gala "China: Throug
Magnolia Pictures

‘The First Monday in May’
Andrew Rossi
Genre: Documentary
Rating: PG-13
3 (out of 5) Globes

Fashion documentaries are virtually a Netflix category by now, and most of them feature Anna Wintour. Titles like “The September Issue,” “Dior & I” and Albert Maysles’ “Iris” offer plenty of dress- and celeb-gawking. But they’re also, often enough, rigorous and patient looks at the process of creation. In the case of “The First Monday in May,” the work being willed into being is a true behemoth: the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s annual, lavish, star-studded spring exhibition, namely last year’s near-problematic “China: Through the Looking Glass.”

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Trailing the harried eight-month lead-up to the big event, “May” offers plenty of hang-time with Wintour as well as guest artistic director Wong Kar-wai, whose film “In the Mood for Love” is both a devastating masterpiece and, apparently, a biggie with fashionistas. But its real star is Andrew Bolton, the Met’s mousy but fastidious costume curator. Quietly nit-picking every crease, Bolton tirelessly plans the museum’s transformation into a relentless eyesore of beautiful frocks. He also endlessly frets that the show could simply reinforce old school “orientalism.” Bolton and cohorts go above and beyond to ensure it creates a bridge between the East and West, not a one-way street — one that educates people on Hollywood’s first Asian superstar, Anna May Wong, and colonialist romps like Josef von Sternberg’s “Shanghai Express.”

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Director Andrew Rossi made his name with “Page One: Inside the New York Times,” which helped turn journos David Carr and Brian Stelter into non-fiction movie stars. Bolton is as magnetic as they are — someone who’s always working, always thinking, and creating work in which the creator’s hand is, ultimately, invisible. By the time we’ve arrived at the big night, it’s clear the revelers — a bro-ing-down Bradley Cooper, Rihanna and her mile-long gown, Justin Bieber giddily posing beside a Commie uniform — are idly enjoying the fruits of far too much labor. It’s a lush behind-the-scenes peep that tacitly argues that not only is fashion art but so, if you will, are fashion shows.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge

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