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VALENTINO: THE LAST EMPEROR

SYNOPSIS:
The film documents the colourful and dramatic closing act of fashion designer Valentino's celebrated career and explores the larger themes affecting the fashion business today. At the heart of the film is the unique relationship between Valentino and his business partner and companion of 50 years, Giancarlo Giammetti.

Review by Louise Keller:
It is a fitting finale, studded with glamour, drama and theatre as fireworks catapult from the Coliseum and a collection of fashion goddesses with long gowns draped far below their ankles fly into the midnight sky. I mention the ankles, because Valentino believes an evening gown that reveals ankles when a woman walks is 'disgusting'. The finale is the climax of the film and indeed a wonderful celebration of 45 extravagantly successful years for an icon of fashion. Vanity Fair special correspondent and now filmmaker Matt Tyrnauer has created a wonderful documentary that allows us to peek at the excess but stays real by its candid fly on the wall approach. It's riveting, insightful, funny and enjoyable as we go on and behind the catwalks and glimpse the public and private Valentino Garavani. 'It's not my fault,' Valentino protests, when he confesses his love for beauty.

What makes the film much more than simply a portrait, is the central personal story between Valentino and his life and business partner Giancarlo Giammetti, whose love story is more than a flashy accessory. Valentino is the creator; Giancarlo makes it happen. Theirs is a dynamic coupling which has flourished for 50 years: Giammetti is the wind beneath Valentino's wings. We are there for the good times (and there are many) as well as the blazing rows (they speak to each other in a mix of Italian and French - as well as English). The affection they hold for each us is unquestionable and there are several instances (such as in Valentino's speech when accepting the Legion of Honour), when emotion overcomes both of them.

Shot between 2005 and mid 2007, Tyrnauer's film traces the lead up to the spectacular celebrations. It's a world of timeless elegance as we flit from Valentino's 17th Century French Chateau with manicured gardens, the drop-dead gorgeous Swiss ski Chalet, the Roman villa, the Manhattan apartment, the 152 foot yacht (in Venice) and Rome fashion house. (At one chic soiree attended by the likes of Elton John, Anna Wintour, Gwyneth Paltrow, Michael Caine and Joan Collins, there is a countess who brings her own vodka; bet she doesn't carry it herself!)

We are there for the fittings, the meetings, the parties (with the rich and fabulous) and the parades. Five adorable pugs (with names that all begin with 'M') are always at hand (there's a hilarious scene in which it is clear that good grooming applies not only to the models). Speaking of which, it is reassuring to see models that are stunning as they showcase haute couture to perfection. (Valentino insists 'let's not have any midgets'). The designs and the beautiful gowns are breathtaking - feminine, elegant and sexy. 'Valentino is the last couturier - the real thing,' says Valentino chairman, Matteo Marzotto. This film highlights that sentiment.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Appropriately nicknamed the Emperor of haute couture, Valentino Garavani (just Valentino to the world at large) demanded respect and worship - and got it. But the world forgave any hint of arrogance or ego in return for his prodigious talent, driven by an absolute obsession with what he thought was beautiful. And he knew what women want: they want to look beautiful. Some may think that's now an old fashioned notion, but I seriously doubt it has ever gone out of fashion.

Obviously, someone who has been at the top of the couture tree for the best part of 45 years needs to be dedicated, if not obsessed. This remarkably intimate portrait, made with less formality than you might expect, gives a real insight into Valentino as a living, working phenomenon at the end of his career. It covers the last two years, leading up to his triumphant and spectacular 45th career anniversary shindig in Rome in July 2007, soon after which he stepped out of the business - which had been taken over by corporations and twisted out of shape.

Matt Tyrnauer and editor Bob Eisenhardt put together a sweeping and fascinating doco which shows the rattiness that can infect even the most assured creatives when under pressure, along with the grandeur. His lifetime companion and business partner, Giancarlo Giammetti, provides some candid insights as well as loving plaudits. We learn some important things about him, too. And we see the workshops where the ideas are translated into gorgeous garments by dedicated seamstresses, and we get archival glimpses of his career, dressing the rich and famous, from Jackie Kennedy to Gwyneth Paltrow. We also see him brush the teeth of his beloved pugs, squabble with Giancarlo (and others), weep at reunions with past workers and share the glory with Karl Lagerfeld, who whispers to him that apart from the two of them, all the others are rag merchants.

The celebrity list is long, as is the range of fabulous, glamorous locations, from his palace outside Paris, to his Swiss ski chalet and New York apartment to his private jet and his seafaring motor yacht with its 11 permanent staff. But the film stays afloat on its sincere determination to show a man the filmmakers respect - and respect enough to be candid about. And often highly amusing in the process.



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

VALENTINO: THE LAST EMPEROR (PG)
(US, 2008)

CAST: Documentary featuring Valentino Garavani, Giancarlo Giammetti, with Giorgio Armani, Karl Lagerfeld, Gwyneth Paltrow, Claudia Schiffer, Donatella Verscae, Diane von Furstenberg, Anna Wintour

PRODUCER: Matt Kapp

DIRECTOR: Matt Tyrnauer

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tom Hurwitz

EDITOR: Bob Eisenhardt

MUSIC: Joel Goodman

RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 17, 2009







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