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FILM REVIEW: VALENTINO, THE LAST EMPEROR

It is unknown whether Valentino: The Last Emperor was meant to be a comedy of sorts, but it certainly delivers humor with it’s fashion. A look into the strange and fabulous life of Valentino Garavani and his partner Giancarlo Giammetti, the film goes behind the scenes to watch the preparations for Valentino’s 45th Anniversary spectacle that took place in Rome in 2007.

Although the major plotline surrounds this event, it seems that the film is only about fashion because of Valentino’s occupation. The fashion and designing is a backdrop for the idiosyncrasies of these two fascinating men.  Featuring an extreme insider’s perspective on Valentino and Giancarlo as people, the film also delves into Valentino the brand.

Surprisingly, the film also allows us to see other fashion personalities doing what they do best. A moment with Hamish Bowels, while preparing for the 45th Anniversary event in Rome, shows the journalist and Vogue staffer’s true love for fashion as he is rendered speechless by the retrospective of gowns. Another sneak peek into the world of American fashion is given when Andre Leon Tally comes by the atelier for a visit, and we witness his sheer joy when presented with a garment to wear to the festivities.

“I would never forgive you if you stopped,” declared Karl Lagerfeld. “Compared to us, everyone else is making rags.” This is most certainly affirmed as we see Valentino draping on a live fit model. In seconds, his vision is clear, as the gown is realized before your eyes. His skilled teams of seamstresses are the silent stars.  With the exception of the colorful Antionetta, “a dragon lady, the Joan Crawford of sewing” says director Matt Tyrnauer, they work in peace. Constructing everything by hand, there is not a sewing machine in sight.

 

“It took two and a half years to make, and we shot over 270 hours of footage” says Tyrnauer. For fashion fanatics, who the director likens to people with varying degrees of psychosis, there will be screenings across the United States of the original seven hour cut of the film sponsored by Neiman Marcus. For those waiting for the DVD, rest assured that there will be plenty of unseen footage, including a rare moment where Mr. Valentino loses it on a young seamstress when a skirt is too full and the silhouette of a gown is ruined.

 

“He is the most difficult man who ever walked the face of the earth” declared Tyrnauer, even before the audience had seen the film. Later, he elaborated to say that Valentino was monomaniacal, and although a genius, the least intelligent person he had ever met. Tyrnauer’s perspective seems a bit tainted by the ‘6 month war’ that he fought with Valentino.  If the director had been a fan before starting to shoot (notwithstanding Tyrnauer’s tenure at Vanity Fair he admits to knowing very little about fashion), it would have been a completely different film.  Director and designer fought constantly, and that does not escape the final cut of the film.  Moments of “I DO NOT WANT TO BE FILMED” are scattered throughout the 96 minute presentation.

Despite the apparent warfare that surrounded the film’s production, Tyrnauer assures us that the two reconciled at the screenings in what he calls a ‘grand version of couple’s therapy’, and after the film’s premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last year Valentino declared “Matt, I want an Oscar.”

Tyrnauer added later that “I didn’t have the heart to tell him that if we won, it would be me getting the Oscar.”

Images courtesy of the Fashion Spot forums.