09 March 2010

Review: "Valentino: The Last Emperor"

I remember being a young child and watching episodes of Fashion Television while skipping church on Saturday night. My interest in fashion has only grown since then. My favourite actresses - Audrey Hepburn, Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett, Penélope Cruz - are style mavens known almost as much for their fashion as their talent. Admittedly, I prefer French fashion to Italian fashion, and I have never been a fan of Valentino, but it hard to pass up the opportunity to gain access to the world of haute couture. Valentino: The Last Emperor is a 2008 documentary film that followed Italian master Valentino Garavani from 2005 to 2007 as he planned his final runway show in Rome. The film showcases Valentino's career and personal life, particularly his relationship with Giancarlo Giammetti. There were shots of Fashion File and Fashion Television, which gave the film a nice Canadian touch. The film does give considerable insight into the brand Valentino, but I found myself disliking the man behind the label when the film finished.

Valentino: The Last Emperor, directed by Vanity Fair special correspondent Matt Tyrnauer, begins with preparations for Valentino's Spring/Summer collection. While Valentino does not have a hand in the construction of his garments, he is the visionary behind each and every gown. Many of the celebrity guests and fashion media are reduced to tears after the runway show during Paris Fashion Week. It had long been speculated that Valentino had been considering retirement. Valentino had sold control of his company to Marzotto Apparel in 2002, and Matteo Marzotto features heavily in the film. Valentino's life partner, Giancarlo Giammetti, acted as honourary president for the Valentino brand and had a lot of creative control over the styling of the runway show. The film follows the two men from Venice to Rome to Paris, from lavish parties and runway shows to personal conversations between the two longtime lovers. The film climaxes at the three-day event honouring Valentino, where Valentino's life and career are brilliantly feted.

Though Valentino: The Last Emperor is a highly enjoyable film, I found Valentino himself to be hard to stomach. I found him to be too egotistical and short-tempered for my liking. He has a considerably high opinion of himself and believes that he was the last true couturier working in fashion. There is a scene where he whines on film that the camera is to be focused on him. I sympathized more for Giancarlo during the film because it seems that Valentino is too busy focusing on his work to vocalize how much Giancarlo has done for him. There is a touching scene when Valentino does give a heartfelt thanks to his partner, but it still felt contrived. Valentino: The Last Emperor is no more provoking than The September Issue, and unfortunately a lot less fun than The Devil Wears Prada, and I felt slightly ripped off at the end.

My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4.

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