THE FIRST MONDAY IN MAY – must be the only Monday that is not the absolute worst. That is, because that specific date hosts the annual Met Gala, the mouth-watering and ceremoniously genius fundraising event for The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s: “China: Through the Looking Glass-exhibition.”
The filmmaker Andrew Rossi, known for Page One: Inside the New York Times, captures the unguarded moments of the unprecedented creative process of the exhibition and exploration between Western fashion and Chinese culture through the narratives of Costume Institute curator Andrew Bolton, director Wong Kar-wai and Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour. Rossi’s camera follows the pedantic Andrew Bolton around Paris, Beijing and New York as he is trying to assure that China’s frustration over its portraiture throughout the centuries in the western world will not be perpertuated disrespectfully at the Met.
Andrew Rossi amalgamates three different narratives in one mouthful. The partially confusing cut describes the intercultural interaction, the creative process and the history of art, ideas and fantasy. The film walks us through the complexity of the debatable question: Fashion can create a theatre, a fantasy, but can it be concidered as art? Does it belong to an encyclopedic museum such as the Met? Does the superficial understanding underestimate the power of clothes? The consensus message was interpreted vaguely as the film flirted with the idea, but never got to the answer. In many ways, it still felt like Andrew Rossi’s camera angles, the patient shots and the visually compelling details had already told the answer.
Thoroughly aiming to be a cultural and amiable documentary, Andrew Rossi’s final third portrayal of the Met Gala felt remarkably different as to the rest of the film. The costume-centric event is shot in a rather quintessential way by zooming in at stars and celebrities that are arriving to the grand venue, covered by the dancing lights of paparazzi, in slow motion. Scenes of Justin Bieber strolling around the burgundy-red corridors at the beat of his own drum, occasional celebrity interviews and Rihanna’s over-energetic table performance somewhat kissed goodbye to the aesthetic and peaceful journey of the documentary.
The best thing about the screenplay is its ability to deliver a visually scrumptious feature on the fashion world and of its noisy and quiet heroes. Under the watchful eye of Andrew Rossi it almost felt like the viewer was at the gala, but of course without needing to worry what to wear. You could almost see in one’s mind wearing the canary yellow silk gown with a fur-trim cape, glazing over the porcelain-like giant vase decorated with 250, 000 white roses, and slowly lingering in the scent of Yves Saint Laurent’s oriental Opium pérfume.
As the viewer gets to be a fly on the ceiling during the progressing countdown, the film reassures that every haute couture show has its momentum of a lasting value as described by John Galliano. The compounds of concept, craftmanship, techniques and aesthetic principles subject as the criteria of art. To some, fashion is an industrial machine or a stigma of being an art form, yet to others it is a cultural production that interprets history and inspires art. This is one of those films where every detail and every beat of the story is visually satisfactory.
Text: Suzanna Gembege