Matt Tyrnauer’s film, Valentino, The Last Emperor is a guilty pleasure: a gem, the perfect confection for this economically straitened era.  If you love haute couture or even if your interest in fashion is more casual, see this film.

Valentino Garavani is the ultimate coutourier, in a class with Balenciaga and St. Laurent.  From childhood he knew that he wanted to make beautiful clothes for women after his sister took him to a Busbee Berkeley film.  No detail escapes his perfectionist eye.  He sketches, and the seamstresses, the closing credits acknowledge three single-spaced columns of just seamstresses, render his visions in chiffon by hand.  A tyrant, surrounded by his five pugs, he exists in a state of constant dissatisfaction expressed simultaneously in French, Italian and English.

Tyrnauer’s camera “opens the kimono” to reveal the inner workings of Valentino and his longtime partner, former lover, friend, and collaborator in business, Giancarlo Giametti, the ballast to Valentino’s temperamental, exigent, artist.  Giametti works behind the scenes to make Valentino happy, a Sissyphean task.  In their four decade collaboration, they’ve spent perhaps a week apart.  There is a great candid moment in the back of a limousine when Giametti confides to Valentino that he’s overdoing the tanning thing.  Valentino listens for a moment, then pouts.

The film is bitchy, funny, and biting, but sweeps you into his vanishing world of glamour, villas, and famous faces.  The film is not to be missed.

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