Haughty couturier

Posted on 08 May 2009 at 12:35am
By Steve Warren Contributing Film Critic

Frock-umentary explores glam life of dictatorial designer, and the partner who can tell him that the dark-orange tan isn’t trendsetting

VALENTINO: THE LAST EMPEROR
B+
Director: Matt Tyrnauer • Cast: Valentino Garavani and Giancarlo Giammetti
Opens: Friday, May 8 at the Angelika Dallas.1 hr. 36 min. •  Not rated.


fashion royalty: Valentino and his beauties.

If two people can stay together for 50 years without killing each other they’re either a perfect couple or co-masochists. Decide for yourself which is true for Valentino Garavani and Giancarlo Giammetti.

They won’t actually reach the 50-year mark until 2010 but the 5-0 figure is tossed around in "Valentino: The Last Emperor," a documentary by Vanity Fair special correspondent Matt Tyrnauer. Not as romantic as "Chris & Don: A Love Story" or as amusing as Isaac Mizrahi’s "Unzipped," it’s centered around — and an extension of — the 2007 celebration of Valentino’s 45th anniversary as a fashion designer: a party for 200,000 guests and 600 VIPs.

Valentino and Giancarlo met in 1960 at a café — they can’t agree on which one — on Rome’s Via Veneto. Valentino had a head full of designs; Giancarlo had a head for business. Together, they made Valentino what someone calls "the only designer in the world who’s managed to last 45 years."

"I love beauty," Valentino says. "I know what women want. They want to be beautiful."

For decades, that was enough. But the fact that high fashion had become big business couldn’t be ignored forever. Valentino’s company was sold to a corporation in 1998, then bought in 2002 by Matteo Marzotto, a younger man with younger ideas.

"Valentino: The Last Emperor" takes on elements of a thriller as a power struggle emerges. Valentino won’t change his old-school ways of making all his clothes by hand and refusing to license his name for merchandising scents and accessories. He won’t retire either, though he’s well into his seventies and dogged by rumors that he’s planning to.

The film begins with preparations for the Paris showing of the Spring/Summer 2006 collection that proved Valentino was still a talent to be reckoned with.

After that, while Marzotto sells a controlling interest in the firm to Permira (which sounds like a James Bond villain), planning continues for the three-day anniversary celebration, which includes bathing the Coliseum in Valentino Red and exhibiting 300 of his greatest creations. Last year’s Olympics opening ceremonies had to work hard to top it.

Tyrnauer had incredible access to the business/life partners’ lives over two years of filming, not only at work but at their villas in Rome and outside of Paris and aboard their yacht, entertaining celebrities from the world of film, fashion and music.
Valentino takes a back seat to his head seamstress in the temperament department. Short in stature, he may have a Napoleonic Complex. In any case, he’s so powerful he doesn’t have to raise his voice. People will strain to listen if necessary. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t throw a few hissy fits and occasionally tell Tyrnauer to stop filming.

Living with a creative person isn’t easy, but Giancarlo seems to have mastered the necessary skills. One senses he’s the only one who would dare tell Valentino he’s too tan, besides winning arguments with him about some creative aspects of their shows.

"You need a lot of patience," he admits, "to be with Valentino as a lover, as a friend, as an employee."

From Jackie (Onassis) to Joan (Collins) to Julia (Roberts), women have stood proudly on carpets of non-Valentino red and proudly proclaimed, "I’m wearing Valentino."

"Valentino: The Last Emperor" gives you some insight into the man behind these great ladies. With so many gay men into fashion, the project should be a runway success.



TREK-TACULAR



If you’re not a Trekkie — don’t worry. The more you don’t know about "Star Trek," the better.

This movie doesn’t solely rely on steroided-out visual effects. In between a complex time-traveling plot, there’s a surprisingly hilarious script that makes it warp-speed funnier than "Star Wars" or any of that William Shatner stuff.

This re-launch of the U.S.S. Enterprise features a refreshing cast of Starfleet cadets: Chris Pine (Kirk) and Zachary Quinto (Spock) spar with great chemistry that’s quite … loving, "I have been and always shall be your friend."

Beneath a Mike Tyson face tattoo is Eric Bana playing the Romulan villain. And Winona Ryder makes a cameo in old-lady drag.

So far, this is the biggest and best space adventure ever filmed.

— Daniel A. Kusner


Grade: A-

Opens Friday in wide release.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 8, 2009.

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