Andrew Rossi’s new documentary THE FIRST MONDAY IN MAY is gorgeous, sumptuous. It’s also undercooked. The film follows the inception, creation, and opening gala for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 2015 fashion exhibition “China: Through the Looking Glass.” The exhibit itself was a massive celebration and rumination on the tenuous relationship between Western fashion and Chinese culture curated by the renowned art director Andrew Bolton and filmmaker Wong Kar-wai. And while the documentary pays occasional lip service to the more divisive and uncomfortable elements of that legacy like Orientalism, racism and China’s frustration over its depiction throughout the centuries in the West, it is first and foremost these two things: a reflection on the creative process as expressed by Bolton and his ally Vogue magazine editor-in-chief Anna Wintour of THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA fame; a gigantic advertisement for the Met and its yearly fundraising gala held on the eponymous first Monday in May.
Neither of these are indictments in and of themselves, though the film opens by positing the lofty question of whether or not fashion should count as “art” when it has been excluded from the art world for so long: according to one interviewee only the Big Three—painting, architecture, sculpture—were considered such until only the last century or so. That question is then almost immediately abandoned in favor of a biography of Bolton and his previous exhibits. Why bring up such a provocative subject only to drop it? Along with the aforementioned racial issues, THE FIRST MONDAY IN MAY never gets into the meat of the ideas it flirts with, eschewing the sausage-making of the museum industry for the glitz and glamour of the red carpet.
Conde Nast Entertainment, MediaWeaver Entertainment, Relativity Studios.
SCORE: 6 out of 10
Nate Hood is Screen Comment’s main film critic in New York. Follow him here @NateHood257