Tuesday, November 24, 2009

DVD Views: Valentino: The Last Emperor

Valentino: The Last Emperor ** ½
Directed By:
Matt Tynauer.

Valentino is one of the biggest names in the fashion world. At the time of his retirement, he had been in the industry for 45 years, and was the last of the huge names in fashion that rose to prominence in the 1960s still designing clothing. He is a man who values beauty above everything else, and shut out anything that was not beautiful. Throughout all those years, he had Giancarlo Giametti, his business partner and companion, by his side. While Valentino focused on beauty, Giametti focued on the business end of things, and helped make Valentino who he is.

The movie, Valentino: The Last Emperor, follows the man at the close of his career. Right up until his retirement, he was designing beautiful gowns for women, and insisted that he make dresses that women would actually want to wear. The business end of things seems to be a mystery to him. His company went public, and had the majority of its shares bought by one congolerate, and then sold off to another. Valentino doesn’t much care. He wants to continue to make clothes.

The heart of the movie is the relationship between Valentino and Giametti who argue and bicker just like any other old married couple. They have been around each other for so long, that they have a shorthand with each other. Giametti understands Valentino’s flourishes and his insecurities, because he is really the only one that Valentino lets see them. He handles him remarkably well – he gives him a rock to lean on when he needs one.

The rest of the movie is far less interesting to me. I’m sorry, but fashion has never really been an interest of mine, and no documentary is really going to change that. Watching as they prepare for numerous runway shows, and Valentino’s grand exit from the fashion world, simply was not all that interesting to me. For someone who likes this world, I’m sure the movie would be fascinating. For me, not as much.

Valentino is a fascinating man, but one that keeps everyone at a distance. He seems unsatisfied all the time, overly pressured, overly managed. All he wants to do is dress beautiful women in beautiful clothing. He has done that for 45 years, and become a multi-millionaire with everything that he could possibly want. In a way, his life resembles something out of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita – surrounded by shallowness all the time, how could we possibly expect him to be anything but shallow?

And therein lies the problem for me with this movie. It is all surface, much like the dresses that Valentino designs. Yes, it is all very beautiful. But does it mean anything?

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