The Met Ball (2010)

2010 #88a
R.J. Cutler | 27 mins | TV

Depending on your level of generosity, this could be described facetiously as either “The September Issue 2” or “a deleted scene from The September Issue”.

It’s sort of both. Culled from footage shot while Cutler was making The September Issue, The Met Ball clearly had no place in the finished film but does work as a piece in its own right. At almost half-an-hour it would’ve extended the feature considerably, but also detracted from the point — this has nothing to do with the production of the titular issue of Vogue. Instead, it shows Anna Wintour and co preparing for the annual Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which is of course an excuse for more of the vapid celebrity and fashion culture that Vogue is all about.

Chloe Sevigny at the 2007 Met BallThe interest of the piece for us normal, sensible folk, then, lies in what it exposes about this world: the ludicrous lengths they go to; the shockingly inflated sense of self importance. As with The September Issue, it presents no narration and a lot of long takes of documentary footage, leaving the viewer to draw their own conclusions. But there are conclusions to be drawn. Wintour is as much a closed book here as in the main film, but there are moments — glances, affectations, turns of phrase — that reveal a little bit more of the truth behind her icy demeanour.

One thing I can’t help think is that she’s very British — which, in America, has created a reputation for being icy, distant and controlling, but is more just quiet and reserved. At times, you can even see uncertainty and self-doubt, like in the painfully embarrassing sequence where Chloe Sevigny — hardly a huge star in her own right — walks right past Wintour’s attempted “hello” on the red carpet… and is promptly dragged back for an equally awkward second attempt, which ends with Sevigny lingering uncomfortably nearby while Wintour moves on. It’s a little painful to watch, but through the actions of those involved — and the thought-unseen moments Cutler captures — is one of the film’s most revealing sequences.

If you didn’t care for The September Issue then there’s nothing to see here. For those of us who appreciated it as an interesting documentary on an alien, perhaps unknowable world, The Met Ball peels back a little more.

4 out of 5

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