Valentino: The Last Emperor

If this glazed and shallowly doting documentary comes across like an elaborate Web extra for an article in Vanity Fair, it must be because director Matt Tyrnauer is that magazine’s editor-at-large. Tyrnauer’s portrait of the exalted Roman couturier Valentino Garavani is fun but unessential, except maybe as a Project Runway palate cleanser. “I love beauty–it’s not my fault!” Valentino says, and the immortal music of Nino Rota supplies a perfect harmony of wistfulness and whimsy. We see the maestro at work, attended by his team of crackerjack seamstresses, his private-jet-load of pugs, and his longtime life and business partner Giancarlo Giammetti, whose ongoing contribution to the Valentino brand seems to bloom from sweet, sharp, funny bickering with its namesake. Discernment between the man and his brand becomes a focus for Tyrnauer on the occasion of a retrospective in 2007, the final year of the Emperor’s official reign. Maybe, after all, he’s just an aged, adorable, astonishingly wealthy, impeccably tasteful, very tan Italian man.

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