Valentino: The Last Emperor

  • Year:2008
  • Rating:PG
  • Director:Matt Tyrnauer
  • Cast: Valentino
  • Release Date:September 17, 2009
  • Distributor:Hopscotch
  • Running time:96 minutes
  • Film Worth:$9.00
  • FILMINK rates movies out of $20 - the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

Mostly compelling documentary, though there are aspects to the fashion legend’s story that are unfortunately neglected.

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Fashion designer Valentino Garavani is everything you'd want in a documentary subject: he always looks slightly ridiculous, he has no trace of irony about himself, and he is utterly compelling to watch, whether he is being charmingly buoyant or devastatingly rude. First-time director Matt Tyrnauer doesn't squander this opportunity, even though he clearly is an admirer of Valentino's work. He gives us an intimate, entertaining portrait that pokes fun at the man while revering the designer.

The documentary follows Valentino and his team for two years, focusing on the preparations for Valentino's couture show in Paris, and then the lead-up and execution of Valentino's 45th anniversary celebration in Rome (which turned out to be his farewell fashion event, as he resigned from his company two months later).

This is fly-on-the-wall stuff, with a few interviews and archival footage included, so don't expect to learn much about Valentino's childhood or early career. Tyrnauer has a keen eye for minor characters though, and so we learn much about Valentino through his interaction with people like his fearsome head seamstress Antoinetta; his muse, Princess Rosario of Bulgaria; and his beloved pug dogs. Not so minor to Valentino's story is business partner and companion of fifty years, Giancarlo Giammetti. He quickly becomes the heart of the film, and it's through Giammetti's descriptions of, and conversations with, Valentino that we see the neurotic and affectionate man behind the egotistical designer.

 The takeover (and then dismantling) of Valentino's couture house by a private equity group is unfortunately only lightly touched upon by Tyrnauer. He chooses to focus instead on the pomp and grandeur of his 45th anniversary show, which wears thin quickly, as do the depictions of Valentino's luxurious, celebrity-studded existence. That said, it remains an edifying glimpse into an extraordinary life.

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