Film Review: 'Valentino: The Last Emperor'

 
 

Never having been a slave to fashion, I didn’t expect to care much for “Valentino: The Last Emperor.” I was delightfully mistaken. From beginning to end, it was a film feast for the eyes.

The man who dressed Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Kennedy and Princess Diana has been an icon of haute couture for more than 45 years. When asked at the onset of the film, “What do women want?” his simplistic, yet revealing reply was, “They want to be beautiful.” And judging from this engaging documentary, Valentino
Garavani’s manifest destiny was to make that desire a reality by designing astonishing garments. Garments that are meticulously all handmade. No sewing machines in sight in this film. Valentino takes perfection to new heights by creating gowns that are exquisite works of art.

This is all caught through the lens of special correspondent for Vanity Fair, Matt Tyrnauer. Shooting 250 hours of footage over two years, he has concocted a visual masterpiece. But, he also provides an exposé of the pivotal moment in Valentino’s career when fashion went corporate.

The 50-year partnership between Valentino and Giancarlo Giammetti is the focal point from which Tyrnauer shoots this picture. Friend, lover and employee, Giammetti is the creative businessman responsible for the firm’s financial success. It’s extremely interesting watching the two interact and at times hilarious. In the back of a limo, Valentino asks Giammetti, “How did I do?” His reply: “A little too tan.”

In the end, Giammetti orchestrates a three-day 45th anniversary tribute to Valentino, which culminates at the Temple of Venus in the Roman Forum. It is a celebration befitting an emperor, extravagant beyond words. As Valentino takes his last stroll down the runway, there are tears in his eyes while everyone applauds. I applaud this smart and discerning piece of filmmaking.

 

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