Friday, May 22, 2009
Valentino: The Last Emperor is a love letter of a sort to Valentino Garavani, the iconic Italian fashion designer. Unfortunately, due to our recessionary times, the type of opulence that the film celebrates - in fact, it seems to be endorsed as a lost quality in the world of haute couture - now feels quaint and anachronistic. And I'm not certain director Matt Tyrnauer, a Special Correspondent for Vanity Fair, was entirely conscious of the irony. The film follows the declining fortunes of Valentino, as his business falls prey to, not only the designer's own taste for excess, but also the rise of corporatism in the 21st century. Valentino exists in a world of dreams and affluence, insulated from harsher realities by his partner, both in business and in life, Giancarlo Giammetti. Giammetti handles the day-to-day aspects of running Valentino's fashion empire, stubbornly refusing to give in to Valentino's petty fits of rage or his capricious whims. But even Giammetti's toughness seems naive when seen in relief to the soulless corporation that eventually takes over the Valentino Fashion Group. Tyrnauer presents Valentino as a man whose ambitions seems to be sufficient to justify his excesses and disregard for the realities of business. But I came away with far less respect for him than for his partner Giammetti. While Valentino had already sent his first fashion house into decline when he met him, Giammetti was instrumental in turning the business around and marketing the fashion brand to the world. To see Valentino treat the man who saved his business and orchestrated some of its past successes with such disdain throughout the documentary, almost bordering on psychological abuse, doesn't exactly endear the diminutive designer to this writer. I can't criticize Valentino: The Last Emperor on the level of entertainment. It definitely is a dazzling behind-the-scenes look at the art of fashion designing - laced with a bit of gossip - that's somewhat enticing. However, it fails in elevating Valentino, harming his image more than putting a shine on it... which is fine. But I'm not convinced that this was Tyrnauer's intention. Valentino: The Last Emperor is in limited release. Opening today at the UA Tara Cinemas-Atlanta, 2345 Cheshire Bridge Road N.E., Atlanta, GA 30324, director Matt Tyrnauer will be on hand to answer questions after tonight's 7:15 and 10:15 p.m. shows, and after all shows tomorrow, Saturday, May 23rd.