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.
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.
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.”
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”.