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Valentino: The Last Emperor

You would have to care a lot more than I do about haute couture to enjoy this documentary. It’s entirely possible that you do; you could hardly care less. But even if you do live for clothes, you’re likely to find that Valentino: The Last Emperor is less about worship of fashion than it is about worship of the rich.

Director Matt Tyrnauer spent June 2005 to July 2007 compiling 250 hours of footage of Valentino Garavani, usually known only by his first name. The last of the classic designers who rose to prominence in the 1950s and 1960s, Valentino retired shortly after the lavish 45th anniversary celebration which caps this documentary. But while there is some footage of him at work, sketching out designs on pads of paper and conferring with his seamstresses, mostly The Last Emperor follows him about as if the camera were another one of his ubiquitous pugs. An elvish-looking man with an imperious manner and a perpetually orange complexion, he occasionally snaps at the intrusion of the filmmakers but mostly smirks at the adoration offered him by everyone he encounters. He claims, “I make dresses for women who actually wear them,” which is fine as long as the women aren’t so slovenly as to let their weight get above 100 pounds. Tyrnauer’s day job is as an editor at Vanity Fair, which will surprise no one who witnesses this film’s swooning over Valentino’s lavish lifestyle: the private jets, the palace outside Paris, the cavorting with washed-up movie stars, etc., etc. Despite some whining about how the fashion industry has been taken over by (gasp!) businessmen, there’s little insight into the history or current status of couture: if you’re not already interested, don’t look for this hagiography to do much to draw you in.

m. faust

Watch the trailer for Valentino: The Last Emperor

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