Fashionable movies

Valentino – The Last Emperor

I have to admit that I have never taken much of an interest in the legendary Italian designer Valentino. Sure he makes very beautiful and intricate evening dresses, but that’s about it. In fact I have been much more intrigued by his long time partner Giancarlo Giammetti who always says very interesting things in interviews.

The movie Valentino – The Last Emperor starts with the 2007 fall/winter couture show in Paris. The looming question is “when will Valentino retire?”. His answers are either cryptic or snappy, you can tell that he doesn’t like to be reminded that he is getting older and that times are changing.

Posh Spice gone old? No it’s just a duchess friend of Valentino.

Valentino and Giancarlo are no longer the owners of the company that they spent 45 years to build and you can tell it’s hard letting it all go. As Giancarlo says about the new and rather young chairman ” He is a nice guy, very simpatico, I like him as a friend, but whatever he says, it has no value to me”

During the filming of the documentary the story takes a new turn. Another investor buys the business and it becomes clear that Valentino’s days tare numbered. “It’s another time now, it’s all about money” Giancarlo says dryly.

Lip balm break. Valentino and Giancarlo.

Giancarlo is the person you get to know the best through this movie, not Valentino. Valentino seems very distant, rather vain and doesn’t say much of value. During the movie I actually started to wonder what Giancarlo sees in Valentino (except for his talent that is). Giancarlo touches on that subject in one emotional scene “He will never tell me directly how much he cares or how much he is grateful and how much he understands what I have done for him.”

On of the rare glimpses inside his studio.

I thought I would love this movie, but I was disappointed. It tries to tell many stories but ends up telling no story at all. Compared to many of the other fashion movies I have watched and reviewed, this one stays on the surface, there is no passion, no rawness. Though the dresses are a delight to watch and it’s interesting to hear about the company takeovers and the demise of couture. As Valentino notes when he goes through a rack of vintage dresses for a retrospective “To make this kind of embroidery today you would have to sell an Italian bank”.


  • Anonymous
    September 20, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    I'm a journalist (not fashion) and like to sew. In addition I am studying television production and learning how to edit digitally (for films and tv).

    I just watched Valentino: The last Emperor and was totally disappointed. This movie fails as a documentary. It does not draw us into its subject or make us feel any empathy for him, it does not seem to have a point of a view or a clear message. There is no tension in the story. Why do we CARE about this person? How does Valentino fit into the larger world of couture?

    Why are there no in-depth interviews with his clients, his peers and his employees?

    Why are we subjected to same ramblings, over and over, by Giancarlo? Who cares about boring business stuff?

    How can someone have made such a boring movie about such an interesting subject?

    Simple, the director is a newbie who is a Vanity Fair editor. He had access to Valentino, but was too afraid to actually dig into his subject.

    If this movie were shown on TV it would be panned.

    Truly a waste of my time, though the gowns were beautiful. (Speaking of beautiful gowns, there was NEVER a freeze frame so the viewer could appreciate the details.)

  • Johanna
    September 21, 2009 at 5:41 am

    >>Anon: I agree with many of your criticisms. They spent almost 2 years and probably LOADS of money only to come up with something that is lukewarm at best. I too think that the lack of tension and depth is it's biggest problem and I'm surprised by it's fairly high rating over at IMDB.

    Though I do find the buisness side interesting, since it's a driving force in fashion, but again they never managed to tell an exciting story about that either.

  • shelley
    October 9, 2009 at 6:06 am

    I can't believe these comments. (And I'm depressed that one of you claims to be a journalist.) Neither of you get the fact that this film is all about the pursuit of excellence. It's a pursuit that can make people scratchy and difficult, seemingly haughty and remote. The film is a triumph and it gives us a rare view inside a creative partnership that lasted almost 50 years. I now plan to buy the DVD when I can. What really astonishes me about the panning you two give this film is the uninformed arrogance with which you do it. But as they say, confidence is one of the benefits of ignorance. The giveaway is the comment from Johanna at the end about how interested she was in the business side. Yeah, right – because big business has always done so much for creativity …

  • Johanna
    October 9, 2009 at 7:09 am

    >>Shelly: Ouch, "uninformed arrogance" is a harsh word to use. I think it's just a matter of opinion and your's is neither more or less worth than mine or any others commenters. I think we just have different perspectives on what makes a good movie. And as for me finding the business of fashion being fascinating, well I am just very interested how things in society interacts. I have the biggest admiration for Valentino, he is a creative genius, but the movie (from a dramaturgy perspective) could have done a better job in telling the story about that legacy IMHO.

  • Kyle
    November 15, 2010 at 4:33 am

    The section I liked the best was actually watching the seamstresses work. 🙂 I also liked the British man who takes care of V's many estates.


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