The Last Emperor

"Compared to us, the rest are making rags."

--Karl Lagerfeld to Valentino Garavani after his 45-year anniversary celebration haute couture show

To escape the heat this afternoon, I scurried into a theatre to watch Valentino: The Last Emperor.

After listening to director Matt Tyrnauer on Q and reading the August 2004 Vanity Fair article that sparked the filmmaker's interest in Valentino and his partner Giancarlo Giammetti, I had to see this film, and it was the perfect little treat on such a hot day.

I already know that it will be a better movie than the hotly anticipated documentary September Issue, an ingenious vehicle to boost up slumping sales for Vogue and its ad pages. It is reported that Anna Wintour will be doing the film premiere circuit in August to help kick off the film.

And while Wintour has a vested interest in the success of the film, Valentino--who retired in 2007--has absolutely none in The Last Emperor, which makes his involvement and support in the project all the more surprising.

This film is not remarkable for its style or technique. It is simply a joy to watch because it channels a kind of beauty and glamour that disappeared from fashion a long time ago. Predictably, the film laments the force of mega-conglomerate holding groups in the industry but I think this film offers so much more.

Tyrnauer spoke to the incredible love between Valentino and Giammetti on Q but it's missing from the Vanity Fair article. The film, however, conveys it loud and clear. Throughout the film, people remark on the unique quality of their enduring relationship. Valentino is every bit the caricature he made himself to be in photographs and interviews. He is temperamental, passionate, and hyperbolic. Giammetti, the younger and more prudent part of the duo, is remarkable to watch and listen to. His patience, restraint, and enduring loyalty is love. He is the star of the movie, and Valentino is the spectacle.

And besides the love story, there is eye candy and dirt for fans of fashion. Valentino made few suits and never designed accessories. It was all about the dresses and there are many and all of them are perfect. The title sequence shows a 2007 haute couture collection and the drama and glamour in that show is enough to take your breath away. And yes, if you liked that video of making Chanel haute couture from New York magazine, this is like watching 90 minutes of that video, enhanced by the colourful personalities of the seamstresses and the designer. Plus, there are all the beautiful (and rich) women who wear the dresses so well.

This is very good escapism. Entering this world is like paying a visit to another time. It's easy to see why the designer lasted longer than any other. Reverence for his work and his person come from so many famous fashion including Andre Leon Talley, Giorgio Armani, and Jeanne Beker. The Last Emperor is a valentine to Valentino.


* Maybe you can help me with something if you've seen the movie too. Who is the writer who interviews Valentino very enthusiastically, leaning in ever so close? She is a front-row staple ... can't remember her name and it's driving me crazy.

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