The First Monday in May review – saucer-eyed fashion documentary

There’s star power aplenty in this documentary/promotional video chronicling the Metropolitan Museum of Arts’ hit exhibition China: Through the Looking Glass

The Met Gala, otherwise known as the “fashion Oscars”, is the annual super-glitzified fundraiser, packed with A-listers, in aid of the Costume Institute of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Arts; it is effectively run by Vogue’s Anna Wintour and has entered the laity’s consciousness via the novel and movie The Devil Wears Prada, which may now be influencing the behaviour of the people it was respectfully lampooning. This glossy, but frankly somewhat saucer-eyed documentary/promotional video is about its colossally successful China: Through the Looking Glass event, all about western responses to Chinese culture – an exhibition on which Wong Kar-wai and Baz Luhrmann served as consultants.

This film certainly brings the star power, and I have to admit it creates a kind of woozy trance, but broken by irritation with the conceited egos on display, especially when the camera lingers, tolerantly, on Justin Bieber being tiresome. A lot of it is all about the table-setting hierarchy – another piece of Devil-Wears-Prada-ism – and there is obviously a huge amount of status envy going on; the film does not care to break that down too thoroughly, save for a single witnessed wisecrack about poor old Josh Hartnett. Maybe this needed someone like Tom Wolfe to anatomise the proceedings fully. And there is still some denial here about John Galliano’s recent disgrace, although the film does fleetingly allude to it.


Peter Bradshaw

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Battle of Soho review – dewy-eyed documentary tells a good story badly
The insidious Starbucking of London’s bohemian backstreets should offer rich subject matter but this bloated film feels like a poorly padded-out TV offering

Peter Bradshaw

26, Oct, 2017 @11:00 AM

Article image
​Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist review – Vivienne is the real deal
Kate Moss delivers a killer anecdote but the subject of this documentary is reluctant to reveal much about her glory years

Peter Bradshaw

21, Mar, 2018 @3:00 PM

Article image
The Gospel According to André review – glittering portrait of a fashion guru
Kate Novak’s doc looks beyond André Leon Talley’s florid persona to reveal a man of honesty, humour and huge resilience

Cath Clarke

28, Sep, 2018 @5:00 AM

Article image
The First Monday in May review: Anna Wintour steals the show
Vogue boss rules with iron fist in a very expensive glove in sharp documentary that takes viewers into the 2015 Met Gala – the biggest night in fashion

Nigel M Smith

14, Apr, 2016 @3:41 PM

Article image
Orione review – deconstructed police-shooting documentary
From police footage to autopsy room, Toia Bonino presents a mosaic of troubling scenes to tell the story of a young man killed in a Buenos Aires barrio

Peter Bradshaw

22, Nov, 2018 @10:00 AM

Article image
Gray Matters review – compelling Eileen Gray documentary
Featuring footage of Gray’s playfully practical works, this layered and interesting study of the architect and designer stands up well

Leslie Felperin

26, May, 2016 @8:00 PM

Article image
The Confession review – profound Guantánamo Bay documentary
Moazzam Begg is interviewed about his incarceration in Cuba in a documentary of great clarity and gravitas

Mike McCahill

11, Aug, 2016 @8:15 PM

Article image
Unlocking the Cage review – exemplary animal rights documentary
This well made film about an organisation fighting for the rights of animals with advanced cognitive abilities presents some fascinating legal and ethical issues

Leslie Felperin

16, Jun, 2016 @8:00 PM

Article image
Amanda Knox review – intriguing but flawed Netflix documentary
The American student wrongly convicted of murder speaks for the first time on film in a survey that questions most of the main players

Peter Bradshaw

29, Sep, 2016 @3:06 PM

Article image
Dying Laughing review – savagely funny documentary about standup
Sarah Silverman, Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Stewart Lee, Garry Shandling and Victoria Wood feature in this film about the craft and catharsis of comedy

Gwilym Mumford

16, Jun, 2017 @9:30 AM