Catch ‘Valentino’ film at Kahala

May 5th, 2009



“Valentino: The Last Emperor” photos
Valentino is surrounded by models in his signature red, and his pugs.

We are doubly blessed this month to be able to see the film, “Valentino: The Last Emperor,” playing at Kahala Theatres, followed by a trip to the Chanel Waikiki boutique to get a taste of the rarified world of haute couture, as depicted in the movie, on vivid display.

Chanel will be bringing in its Métiers d’Art Collection 2009, “Paris Moscow,” for a special exhibition May 9 through June 6. (Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld makes an appearance in the “Valentino” film, toward its end.) I’ll have more information about the show, as well as images from the collection in Thursday’s paper, but for now, Valentino.

Anyone with the slightest interest in fashion MUST see this film, by Matt Tyrnauer. I saw it on Friday night, during a benefit screening presented by the Honolulu Gay & Lesbian Cultural Foundation, also held in advance of the organization’s 20th annual Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival, running May 21 to 24.

The film is funny and sad, with all the elements of great drama, including a quixotic protaganist, villains in the form of business execs and financiers, and tragedy in light of market forces and changing of the guard, leading to the end of the era in which Valentino thrived.

Beyond surface beauty, there are dozens of hands involved in constructing these garments by hand, with skills above and beyond what most people will ever be exposed to, because what most of us see is the ready-to-wear. By film’s end, one reviewer still couldn’t separate haute couture from L.L. Bean. That’s so sad.


Valetino, left, with his longtime partner Giancarlo Giammetti, studying one of the designers creations.

At the heart of the film is the designer, the last of the couturiers of the 20th century whose house bore his name. He made his name in the 1960s, designing for such women as Jacqueline Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Princess Margaret and Marisa Berenson.

He continues to live and create in a world that has essentially disappeared. Where the wealthy once supported a designer by purchasing extravagant one-of-a-kind gowns and ensembles, companies today rely on global licensing and marketing of small goods and accessories for survival, things Valentino admits he cannot do. Making handbags is not part of his skill set, and as a perfectionist, he is loathe to put his name on something that is not his.

While watching the movie, I heard gasps from the audience during those vain-glorious moments when Valentino uttered things while under pressure just before a show, like, “I want people to kneel at my feet” and “I want the cameras to follow only me.” But I wasn’t shocked at all. As an artist, his passion is for ideas, and he doesn’t really occupy the same plane as other human beings. He lives in a sort of virtual reality where everything is still “La Dolce Vita” and everything is beautiful.

Luckily, Valentino has the grounding force of Giancarlo Giammetti, who has managed his business for decades, while giving the designer room to create with a minimum of disturbances and limitations. In the beginning of the film, Giammetti is asked the rude question, “How does it feel to live in (Valentino’s) shadow?” But in truth, without Giammetti, there would be no Valentino, whose first attempt to run his own house failed early.

The film finds Valentino, in his 70s, continually confronting the question of retirement. He can think of nothing else he would prefer doing outside of designing, but the question is whether to walk away with his dignity, or to stay and be asked to leave by the corporation that bought his business.

While he ponders the question, we are treated to a breathtaking fashion exhibition and show at no less than the Roman Colosseum. Even with distance and this small scale, it will take your breath away.


Consumed by his art, Valentino left details of the business up to Giancarlo and was upset to see a landscape of sand dunes for one of his more ethereal collections. He complained that people will expect to see camels and safari wear and all the reporters will ask, “Why the sand dunes?” Which is exactly what happened. But the show itself was beautiful, as Giancarlo envisioned, and in the end, Valentino came up with a response that satisfied reporters.

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4 Responses to “Catch ‘Valentino’ film at Kahala”

  1. JK:

    Just saw a video interview on WSJ for his movie. I thought he had six pugs, but only see five.

  2. Nadine Kam:

    Wow, good eye. He does have six. I thought I only saw five in the movie. One pug did wander off while they were shooting this photo.

    Check out this pug clip at

  3. JK:

    Nice looking pugs, when you have that many. Mom always had a thing for them, because of their faces.

  4. AC:

    Just saw the movie and it was fabulous. Even the non-fashion conscious will appreciate the artistry in couture after seeing hand-sewn ruffles meticulously made! It was cool to see all the famous designers interacting – Armani, Lagerfeld, von Furstenberg…

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