The 15th Tribeca Film Festival kicked off on Wednesday night at Manhattan’s John Zuccotti Theater with the world premiere of the documentary “The First Monday in May,” which offers a peek inside Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour’s 2015 Met Gala and corresponding exhibit, “China: Through the Looking Glass.”
Centering on Met Costume Institute curator Andrew Bolton, viewers get a front row seat as museum employees build the exhibit, and Vogue staff work with Wintour to prep for the annual star-studded gala. The movie also depicts the day-to-day life of the famously taciturn Wintour. We see assistants (like Anne Hathaway in “The Devil Wears Prada”) delivering her venti coffees as the cameras offer access inside her house. And best of all: we see her in a pair of casual skinny jeans.
But unlike Wintour’s previous doc, “The September Issue,” “The First Monday in May” was produced in house by Conde Nast Entertainment, and it often plays like an in-house ad for the brand. “It was something that Anna had spoken to me about early on when I first arrived at Conde Nast,” said Dawn Ostroff, the former CW president who now runs Conde Nast Entertainment. “We were waiting for the right exhibit to really put together as a feature film, where there were enough sides to the story and it felt large in scope.”
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Wintour scuttled down the carpet, talking to few reporters.
The opening night film has always been a mixed bag for Tribeca — last year’s “SNL” doc was never heard from again — but “The First Monday in May” managed to draw a crowd of fashion insiders like designer Zac Posen, actress Chloe Grace Moretz, and model and actress Lauren Hutton. “We always look for films that have a good story, have good leading ladies, and are about interesting processes, and this film had it all,” enthused Tribeca co-founder Jane Rosenthal. “Plus, it is New York and we’re New York.”
Through interviews with Hollywood fixtures like Wong Kar-Wai and Baz Luhrmann, as well as fashion icons, Jean Paul Gaultier, Guo Pei, John Galliano, Karl Lagerfeld and Andre Leon Talley, the documentary touches on the question of: is fashion really art?
Wintour was a key player in managing aspects of the project, offering suggestions as to where and when to film. Director Andrew Rossi, was made the New York Times documentary “Page One,” was approached by Sylvana Ward Durrett — the director of special events at Vogue and a key Met ball planner — to shoot the film.
“I guess Anna had seen ‘Page One,’” Rossi said. “I was instantly excited at the possibilities because it would satisfy this appetite that I have for going behind the scenes at great institutions. To me, it was more than a movie about a party.”
Rossi added that Wintour, with the exception of a few small notes, gave him creative control. “My vision as it were, even at that early stage, was to not make a movie that is just the mechanics of the party,” Rossi said. “But that is a critical look at the issues involved in the curatorial process, and also the significance of the gala for better or worse.”
The film’s after-party, held at Spring Studios, failed to lure A-list names. Not even Wintour could be found mingling with the sponsor-heavy crowd.