As far as documentaries about the couture culture go, Valentino: The Last Emperor runs out of thread long before its closing credits. By comparison, the 1995 Isaac Mizhari piece Unzipped provided a lot more, uh, zip than this nonfiction effort, which ultimately seems as self-absorbed as its central figure.
That icon is, of course, Valentino, considered one of the greatest of all Haute Couture fashion designers. The early going is the most interesting, as audiences are provided brief glimpses into the creative process and allowed to witness the artist's loving (if tempestuous) relationship with the infinitely more levelheaded Giancarlo Giammetti, his longtime companion and business partner.
Over the long haul, however, Valentino doesn't turn out to be a particularly interesting person, just a spoiled brat whose opulent lifestyle leaves a bad taste in the mouth when the present economic situation springs to mind (as it frequently does when confronted with such extravagance). Director Matt Tyrnauer (a key staffer at Vanity Fair) completely succumbs to celebrity-gawking by the finale, which centers on a lavish evening meant to celebrate Valentino's 45th year in the business but also turns out to be his retirement party. Tyrnauer spends almost as much time ogling the A-listers in the audience as he does shooting the models on the runway. Look, there's Anne Hathaway! And Uma Thurman! Check out Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick! And isn't that Eva Mendes?
Yawn. If I really wanted to indulge in stargazing, I'd just as soon hook up a telescope in the backyard and aim it at the night sky.