June 3, 2009

A Man of Fashion

When a reporter asks, "What do women want?", Valentino pronounces as confident and as matter-of-factly as a candidate running for office, "They want to be beautiful."

Matt Tyrnauer has crafted a unique documentary in Valentino: The Last Emperor. It's a warts-an-all, full-access documentary that is missing the warts because there really aren't any. Oh, there are diva moments - scuffles over runway design, and anger at the shifting sands of the fashion industry from beneath Valentino's feet. However, like royalty, Valentino hasn't the ability to succumb completely to such pettiness. Never impolite, but never humble (it seems most people around him are merely invisible to him), he meets these moments with the only thing he knows - beauty.

Tyrnauer follows Valentino and his business / life partner Giancarlo Giammetti throughout the 2006/2007 fashion season (it would turn out to be his 45th and last). We see the behind-the-scenes planning of a show in France; we join them (along with Joan Collins, Michael Caine, Gwyneth Paltrow and others) for a fancy banquet; we ride with the six exquisitely-matched pugs on their yacht; and we are there when it culminates in Rome for a 45th Anniversary celebration of Valentino's career.

The thing that becomes abundantly clear is that Valentino would not have been Valentino without Giammetti. His artistry may have been the same, but his business would have collapsed. Indeed, Giammetti estimates that if you add up the days the two have spent apart in the 45 years they've been together that you wouldn't make it to two months. There is an adorable segment where the two reminisce about La Dolce Vita and stroll the street where they met - but disagree about which bar it actually was. And this is the surprise of the film -
a man who is royalty in his profession, whose wealth separates him so complettely from the likes of us everyday folk, and whose attitude brings all that to the fore - a man such as this can be a very engaging subject. There an honesty in his arrogance. And, let's be honest, he can be arrogant because he is remarkable. The looks of Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis, Audrey Hepburn, Julia Roberts, Gwyneth Paltrow - he defined them.

Valentino can make confident pronunciations about what women want because for 45 years he's been delivering it. And Tyrnauer delivers a fascinating and surprisingly involving glimpse into this remarkable life.

No comments:

Post a Comment