I’m in the wrong profession.

Theatrical Release Date: 03/18/2009
Director: Matt Tyrnauer
Featuring: Valentino, Giancarlo Giammetti, Matteo Marzotto, Karl Lagerfeld, André Leon Talley

Valentino Garavani is best known by his first name, the one that has ruled the fashion world for over 40 years. He has clothed the most famous people in the world, from models to actors/actresses to socialites and even Jackie Kennedy once had her entire wardrobe designed by him. Filmmaker Matt Tyrnauer followed Valentino and his business partner Giancarlo Giammetti for two years, at first just thinking it would be your standard one man show but discovering that the real story lies in their partnership – that the brand Valentino only rose to success because of how well they worked together to make it so.

The film shows Valentino’s beginnings and follows him and Giammetti through their everyday operations up through the 45th anniversary of the company – which is highlighted by a massive three day festival, attended by celebrities and the creme de la creme of high society.

All of the film making is your straightforward interviews to go along with fly on the wall cameraman placement. We’re meant to see things as they are, as if we’re along for the ride. While not too original, it’s effective, made moreso by the joie de vivre shown by Valentino and Giammetti. Their lifelong connection with each other has created a bond as strong as brothers, able to withstand the highs and lows that routinely occur in a partnership like this.

The fashion on display is beautiful. Something that Valentino prides himself on is not just crafting something outlandish for the sake of beauty, he wants it to be worn. As a frequent viewer of pre-Oscar red carpet events, I’ve noticed his name come up a number of times and many people will probably recognize the beautiful red dress Julia Roberts wore when she won an Oscar for “Erin Brockovich”, designed by Valentino of course. I wish Tyrnauer had focused a bit more on some of the dresses on display for the 45th anniversary, to see the progression of fashion over the decades, but there was so much going on for that event he’d probably need an extra camera to get it done.

Perhaps the biggest negative however is that it was hard to tell exactly where everything was going. Tyrnauer seemed to just cut together some of the more obvious events rather than worry about crafting a complete narrative. We do go from the beginning to the end of Valentino’s career but often in the middle, there’s a wandering feeling and at times I wondered how much longer it would be until it was over, rather than remain engrossed and excited about the next turn of events.

Still, even if you’re not a fashionista or had ever heard of Valentino before, the documentary is entertaining overall. It highlights the dynamic between the fashion designer and the business man at his side, and all it takes is an interest in beauty to appreciate much of what is in the film. A 3 out of 5, “Valentino: The Last Emperor” goes well with this year’s “The September Issue” and while I’m surprised it made the short list for Oscar nominated documentaries, I did enjoy watching it.