Everyone knows the first Monday in May is Met Ball Day, don’t they? Such an arrogant assumption is about right for this bombastic but super fun documentary set around the Met Museum’s staging of an incredible China: Through The Looking Glass fashion exhibition combined with putting on the uber glamorous Met Ball which raises the funds for it.
Somehow it all comes together, on screen and off, with fascinating behind-the-scenes diversions along the way.
We follow the British-born Costume Institute curator Andrew Bolton as he works on the show, collaborating with film maker Wong Kar-Wai and one-time pariah John Galliano. He walks a delicate tight rope at times, never wearing socks, and negotiating like fury with various factions and employing a statesman-like diplomacy at all times.
The old arguments about whether fashion can be considered as art pale into insignificance (Bolton’s previous work on McQueen Savage Beauty surely put paid to that) but it’s the tussle between East and West here that fascinates, such as a very touchy moment over the misappropriation of Chairman Mao in a roomful of Buddhas.
The show looks, I have to say, fabulous and you just want to go.
But not as much as you want an invite to the Met Ball, which is presided over by Anna Wintour herself, who breezes through the film like an icy blast, tutting and bobbing and telling people what to do, brilliantly decisive and immaculately tasteful.
Whenever she wobbles, Baz Luhrmann is there as the Ball’s creative director, to bolster the spirits with a dash of campery and flattery and change the colour scheme of the napkins. “If it takes Rhianna dancing on a table to raise attention, then so be it,” says Baz. And they get what they want, a twice the price but my word the girl looks amazing on the red carpet.
I did love it. It’s nice and bitchy, particularly when we’re privy to a bit table plan skirmishing: “Harvey won’t like being sat there. Anne Hathaway? Really? Josh Hartnett? What’s he done lately?” Of course, the big laugh comes when we see the final table layout and Anna’s sat herself… between George Clooney and Bradley Cooper.
It all looks a-may-zing. Really, the giant vase made out of 250,000 blue and white roses, fabulous. The costumes dotted among ancient statues, the plexiglass rod bamboo forest, stunning. We even get to go round the exhibit with Jean Paul Gaultier, which is hilarious and thrilling.
Director Andrew Rossi gets as caught up in the swirl of glamour and celebrity and whooshes us along with him, but there’s an underlying seriousness here too, and the film’s triumph is that you feel the pull of Pop and Art, the friction between commerce and aesthetic, the dedication to rigorous technique, be it in the stitch of a sequin, the choice of a film clip, the positioning of a mannequin, the placing of a celebrity on the right table.