As frothy as the eponymous subject’s evening gowns, debuting director (and Vanity Fair journo) Matt Tyrnauer’s observational docu “Valentino: The Last Emperor” frequently plays like an extended Fashion Channel segment crossed with “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” Touching on the haute couture industry’s changing market pressures –which led to Valentino Garavani’s retirement shortly after the two-year shoot — gives some depth to the pic’s adulatory tone, but what adds heart, and humor, is the interplay between the legendary couturier and Giancarlo Giammetti, his longtime partner in business and life. Extended fest play should segue into international broadcast.
Heavier on la dolce vita than the creation of couture, the pic contains a few intriguing peeks into Valentino’s atelier, where lab-coat-clad seamstresses hand-stitch his expensive designs. A gorgeous retrospective at Rome’s Ara Pacis museum reminds that they are works of art. The most over-the-top moments are from an extravaganza celebrating his 45th anniversary in fashion, set at an ancient temple site overlooking the Colosseum, boasting fireworks and flying models. Breathless editing and Fellini-redux score by Nino Rota reinforce the feeling of the subject’s gilded world. Handheld camerawork sometimes feels too hyperactive.