STUDIO: Phase 4 Films
MSRP: $14.99
RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes
  • The Perfect Life: Around the World with Valentino
  • The Last Collection
  • The Red Dress

The Pitch

Hey, you! Poor guy! Want to feel even poorer? Watch this movie brimming with opulence!!!

The Humans

Valentino Garavani and Giancarlo Giammetti. Directed by Matt Tyrnauer.

The Nutshell

Valentino: The Last Emperor follows Valentino and his design house for a year as they prepare two collections and a 45th anniversary retrospective. The film gives unprecedented access to Valentino’s house and personal life, exploring his relationship with partner Giancarlo Giammetti.

The Lowdown

Early in Valentino: The Last Emperor, Valentino states simply, “I love beauty. It’s not my fault.” This statement says it all. Valentino makes no excuses for his adoration of beauty, and it is his singular conception of beauty that will and must be brought forward. He is the perceiver, and he is the creator. He is the man with the capacity to project and create that which is beautiful, and he makes no excuses for it. He is unrelenting in his love of beauty, and what we see in the film is that he is equally as unrelenting in his creation of it.

This image makes me feel so very guilty, as if I’ve done something terrible. Stop wagging that finger at me, Michael Caine! Stop it!

What Valentino: The Last Emperor does right is that it focuses on Valentino the man as opposed to Valentino the career, and it makes the film infinitely more interesting. It also makes it infinitely more touching. Valentino’s career spanned over 50 years, and his design house was under his creative control for roughly 46 years. He is known for his use of white, his use of pleated fabrics and his stunning “Valentino red” among other things. These facts, and his subsequent impact on the fashion world are well documented. Valentino: The Last Emperor examines his creative processes, but more importantly, Valentino the man’s relationship with Giancarlo Giammetti.

Giammetti and Valentino met in Rome in 1960. The film has a very sweet sequence where the two recount their differing versions of the story while they visit the café at which it happened. From the moment they left the café together 50 years ago, a life-long partnership was created, both personal and business. Giammetti became the man controlling all of the financial aspects of Valentino’s enterprise, allowing Valentino to create unfettered by the worries of running a business. In the film Giammetti is asked by a reporter “How does it feel to live in another man’s shadow, even a significant one?” To which he responds, “Happiness.” Giammetti’s answer rings true for the entire film. He is happy to take the role out of the spotlight and to support a man he loves, respects and admires. There is no hidden bitterness or jealousy: only support is seen.

That is not to say that everything in the film, and of their relationship, is seen through glasses colored “rosso Valentino.” Giammetti also states, “To be with Valentino as a friend, as a lover, as an employer, it’s all the same. You need a lot of patience.” His patience is seen tried and tested. They exchange barbs and have small disagreements, and the film does well to show all aspects of the narcissism that comes with being a passionate artistic genius. A conversation where they discuss one another’s stubborn nature is pointed and truthful. We see the full influence of Giammetti in Valentino’s personal and professional life in a sequence where Giammetti points out “two holes” where there are not ribbons of fabric on dress. Valentino says he left the holes there purposefully. Giammetti stays his ground and says it doesn’t look purposeful, but just like “two holes.” Valentino raves and asks for the holes to be filled. I doubt many others could so quickly sway Valentino from his artistic vision.

Some felt the film went far too deep into Valentino’s personal life.

Watching that artistic vision is one of the most vibrant and exciting things about the film. Valentino is undoubtedly a creative visionary, and to see him speak of a dress, to see it sketched and to see it brought to fruition is inspiring and exhilarating. We are also able to see many other aspects of Valentino’s design house. It’s intriguing to watch head seamstress Antonietta De Angelis, an individual as creatively opinionated as is Valentino himself command her crew. To watch their part in the creation of the haute couture masterpieces gives new respect to the house as a whole, and not simply the designer. And to see how the house works as a whole is fantastic: they all seem to be one large, creative family supporting and working with a creative genius.

Director Matt Tyrnauer does very well in focusing on these integral relationships. It adds a large emotional weight to the entire piece. He also manages to find and weave in conflict into the film as he juxtaposes Valentino’s creative processes with Valentino SpA president Matteo Marzotto’s direction of the company. Valentino represents the artist wanting simply to create, whereas Marzotto represents the corporate side, with which Valentino has had little to do since bringing in Giammetti so many years ago.  As Valentino SpA progressively is sold to different corporations we see the strain of the creative in the commercial world. It’s obvious there are two very different trajectories desired in the film, and because Tyrnauer has focused on the relationships as opposed to the career, it makes the difference an emotional one, not just a logical one. That is why when Tyrnauer shows a shot of Valentino SpA’s CEO speaking about the companies future and we see Giammetti in the background look away it carries so much weight and meaning.

Ugh, dear lord. It’s a super bowl commercial in the making.

At times, though, the diverging interest storyline can seem a bit superfluous or overstated, and it gives Valentino’s eventual retirement a feel of defeat, as if he was pushed out as opposed to bowing out. While this may be the case, it seems to go against the statement of the film as a whole, that Valentino is a creative emperor who cannot be forced to do anything against his own will. Also, Tyrnauer doesn’t do much to open the film up to those less familiar with the fashion world. Those without initial interest in this film may be turned off by its praise of man who is so exultant in his obsession with beauty and luxury.

Valentino is truly and emperor in every sense of the word: he has created his kingdom. He lives lavishly and decadently within it. He is meticulous and demanding in its creation. He sees all, and he demands perfection according to his own criteria. He is, as Giammetti puts it, “above control.” While many may see this as egomania in action, he is a genius, and he is loved for it. Near the end of his film when his design house arrives in Rome for his retrospective, it’s touching. You see the love that his seamstresses have for him, and you see how he speaks to them personally. The film is filled with high-powered fashion magnates, and it’s interesting to see them populate the outside edges of the frames. It’s exciting to see Hamish Bowles in action, and very interesting to see Anna Wintour repeatedly in the background, hovering with her all-powerful influence.

The Bourgeoisie is getting crueler with their dinner orders.

There is a moment where in accepting the medal for the French Legion D’Honneur Valentino thanks those who have helped in his career. He pauses for a moment, and becomes emotional as he thanks his partner Giancarlo Giammetti. It is here we see briefly that the emperor is indeed human. It is because of these moments that we may become emotional (I say “may” because I definitely didn’t get emotional at all during this movie. I’m a man and that would just be wrong…) when Karl Lagerfeld approaches Valentino after the 45th anniversary show and says, “Compared to that, the rest of us are making rags.” There is a truth to that statement. There is no one to compare to Valentino. He is a unique visionary, and as anyone who has seen Valentino SpA’s shows since his retirement in 2008 knows, he cannot be replaced. He is the last emperor.

The Package

The packaging is simple and sleek in black and white with flashes of red. The extra features are both interesting and touching.  The Perfect Life is a 30-minute mini-doc exploring a few of Valentino’s lavish living quarters around the world, most of the footage taken from a party thrown at his Paris Chateau. The Last Collection is a brief yet moving look at Valentino’s last show in Paris. To see his culminating work on screen is beautiful and touching, and to see him walk down the runway one last time while surrounded by traditional red dresses is a very powerfully bittersweet moment. The Red Dress is another brief mini-doc looking at the inception of a red Valentino dress all the way to its completion. It’s an interesting examination of Valentino’s involvement with his team’s work. Those who enjoyed the movie will love the extra glances into Valentino’s world.