FILM REVIEW: Valentino: the Last Emperor

FILMMAKER: Matt Tyrnauer

REVIEWER: Katy Jones

Valentino: The Last Emperor

Valentino with his models (image from film's website)

The filmmaker Matt Tyranauer of “Valentino: The Last Emperor” followed the world-famous haute coutre fashion designer Valentino Garavani for the two last years of Valentino’s career – including jets, fashion shows, and his unbelievable gala event – his forty-five anniversary party. Seriously, none of this sounds like the kind of documentary I’d be into. Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous meets E’s Fashion Television? And yet, what unveiled was a sophisticated, fascinating portrait of a human being that intrigued and inspired me. Combined with one of the most thoughtful love stories I have seen on screen.

I am no fashionista. My very most fashionable fantasies involve finding the perfect pair of cargo pants. But every human has their own passion. Passion makes for a good documentary subject. Valentino’s passion is bringing beauty to the world through ladies clothing. This is prosaic, in some ways silly, and completely beautiful.

What struck me most about this film, and what made me watch it twice, was the finely crafted story. This could have easily strayed to the edge of caricature or publicity fluff or cheesy romance. But it stayed with the story. Tyranauer captured and shared humanly beautiful moments that a lesser filmmaker would have missed and structured the story in such a way that it kept moving forward. And it has a sense of “pull” strong sense of style which is entirely the filmmaker’s. Each moment in the film has a place and helps to craft a portrait. It is a finely edited and written film.

This is a documentary of Valentino’s larger than life reality. A man whose creative vision has created an empire with multiple homes, private jets, finely crafted foods, exquisite furniture, chauffeurs, and a Princess-confidant muse. But this is also a documentary about the smaller moments that make up this grand life. Behind the scenes of this great empire is his partner in life and business Giancarlo Giammetti. Giancarlo is the businessman while Valentino is the artist. I mean, seriously, how lucky can two people be? You actually find a partnership where everything you are good at brings good things for both you and your partner? And shittons of money?

They are partners in every sense of the world, and it’s not a picnic. They bicker about mundane bullshit like all of us, they whine about each other’s lack of sense, they praise one another, express gratitude, and sometimes understand each other’s moods without speaking, all the while surrounded by 19th century French antiques and private cars – it is your grandparents aging in grand style. This is not a story about two gay men. It’s a love story about two people. It is sometimes bitchy and sometimes joyful and sometimes exquisite, but it is always a partnership. And in larger than life glamour – so so very Valentino.

5 out of 5 cheers. And I may trade my cargo pants in for a vastly impractical beautiful party dress.

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