Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Last night with the Last Emperor

Claire Danes, Giancarlo Giammetti, Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow, Valentino, and Anne Hathaway. Photo: DPC. 10:00 PM.
March 18, 2009. Yesterday was a sunny St. Patrick’s Day in New York. The parade up Fifth Avenue runs for several hours and is marched by what seems like thousands of people; lots of school bands, lots of policemen in uniform and local officials, and hundreds of thousands of sidewalk spectators of all ages and stripes. It is also a weekday when you see a vast amount of the local population hanging outside barrooms after the parade, looking like they’ve had probably a lot more to drink than they usually (if ever) have.

At six o’clock I went down to the Museum of Modern Art, invited by Peggy Siegal to the premiere of “Valentino, the Last Emperor,” a documentary film by Matt Tyrnauer on the life and times of the great Roman couturier and his partner. The evening was hosted by Quintessentially and Gilt Groupe.

The invitation read: Marisa Berenson, Tory Burch, Helena Christensen, Claire Danes, Aerin Lauder, Princess  Firyal of Jordan,   Annette de la Renta, Rachel Feinstein, Cornelia Guest, Gwyneth Paltrow, Stephanie Seymour,   Georgina Chapman, Lynn Wyatt, Pamela Fiori, Carolina Herrera, Karolina Kurkova, Doutzen Kroes, Diane Von Furstenberg, Natalia Vodianova, Daphne Guinness, Valentino Garavani, Giancarlo Giammetti and Matt Tyrnauer invite you. Who could resist?

East 53rd Street, from the moment the cab got off the FDR Drive and onto First Avenue, was a traffic jam all the way over to Fifth Avenue. This was unusual. I’d come down the same road earlier in the day on my way to lunch and it was clear sailing all the way. So it was puzzling (and exasperating as traffic can always be in New York), until I got to MoMA where the block was jammed with limousines and the doors of the museum were surrounded by scores of photographers and hundreds of curious onlookers.

It was a fashionable crowd with lots of boldface names. A few rows ahead of us were Valentino and his partner Giancarlo Giammetti standing in the aisle next to their seats surrounded by Gwyneth Paltrow, Anne Hathaway, Claire Danes. Nearby taking their seats were Reinaldo and Carolina Herrera, Carolyne Roehm and Simon Pinninger, Anne Bass and Julian Lethbridge, Louise Grunwald, Diane von Furstenberg and Barry Diller, Martha Stewart, Tinsley and Topper Mortimer, Dennis Basso and Michael Cominotto, Timothy Fok, Daphne Guinness, Carlos Souza (who for a long time was head of world PR for Valentino), Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia, Susan and John Gutfreund, Amanda Burden (whose son Carter Burden was the executive producer of the film), Susan Burden and Bill Goldman, Hilary and Wilbur Ross, Dixon Boardman, Pepe Fanjul, Charlie Rose, Zac Posen, George Wayne, Vicky Ward, James Reginato, Blythe Danner, Meredith Melling Burke, Jacob Bernstein, Amy Fine Collins and her daughter Flora; Hiram Williams, Nancy Novogrod, Celerie Kemble and Boykin Curry, Roger Waters, Rachel Roy, Scott Currie, Eli Tahari, Agness Deyness, Lauren Davis Santo Domingo, Adam Lippes, Harvey Weinstein, Madonna, Charles and Clo Cohen, Cornelia Guest and hundreds more just like ‘em (?).

Already shown around the world in film festivals to wide acclaim, VALENTINO THE LAST EMPEROR follows the designer and his business partner Giammetti at the top of one of the world’s most glamorous and competitive games: the fashion business.

Valentino in a photograph is almost sculpted in appearance, perfectly turned out, perfectly tanned and very imperious and Roman in countenance. On meeting, however, the man is warm and charming with an informal and bemused personality. His partner Giancarlo looks more like a movie star in the style of Marcello Mastroianni, also always beautifully turned out in the way Italian men seem to be by nature.
Valentino amongst friends and admirers arriving at the Oak Room at the Plaza after the premiere of the film at MoMA.
Before the lights went down, Raj Roy of the MoMA film department introduced Matt Tyrnauer, the filmmaker. Mr. Tyrnauer is familiar to a lot of readers as regular contributor to Vanity Fair. He thanked his film’s stars for their willingness to cooperate. He mentioned that in first seeing the finished product the partners were taken aback by how very personal it was, but he praised them for their willingness to cooperate in every way to complete the film.

He thanked a number of people including his colleague Aimee Bell and his editor Graydon Carter. He gave us some background of the process in making the film, explaining how beginning in 2007, the cameras followed the two around at the time that they were marking the final two years of a 50-year career (the business, which had been sold in part to financial interest was being bought by a larger conglomerate).

The film began in Paris with a view overlooking the Place Vendome where Valentino was preparing for his Paris show. From that moment on, the audience was captivated by the personality of the man, his business partner, their moment to moment relationships with their associates, employees, models, seamstresses, friends and clients as everyone moved through their lives and business.
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Valentino has five pugs, an important clue about the man who loves his friends, his surroundings and his day-to-day. They go everywhere with him. And the camera follows: to atelier, the runways, the slopes of Gstaad (Valentino is an excellent skier), the plane, the yacht, the office, to the Via Veneto where the two men met at a curbside table of the Café de Paris and back to work; always the work. The Valentino-Giammetti life is full of entourage, working, creating, debating, agreeing, disagreeing, planning, contemplating, reminiscing (briefly but succinctly). There are a couple of moments when the couturier loses his patience (but never his cool) with the omnipresent camera eavesdropping on his conversations (about business – everything is about business with the two men).

The viewer sees just how the men work, separately and together. It is a remarkable partnership, a partnership of love ultimately because of the brilliantly cooperative give-and-take between them. Giammetti speaks of Valentino as the Center, the Star, the Last Word. He explains that the man keeps his own counsel, rarely confiding his doubts and concerns but instead maintaining at almost all times an air of certainty and confidence. Publicly Valentino speaks of living for beauty, for creating beauty, for making women look beautiful. Publicly Giammetti is constantly orchestrating, organizing, operating to present the finished product.

The camera follows them to Rome, to his villa, on the yacht in Venice (where the film was shown at the Venice Film Festival), to the chateau outside Paris, to the extravaganza of a fashion show in Paris, to the 45th Anniversary (of their business and partnership) in Rome culminating with a brilliantly planned and staged party just outside the Colisseum at night featuring models seemingly floating above.
Giancarlo Giammetti, Gwyneth Paltrow, Valentino, and Anne Hathaway
The audience is mesmerized. Valentino is the star. Giancarlo is the producer, the diplomat, the executive in charge, always thinking ahead to make the perfect presentation. Cathy Horyn, the fashion reporter for the New York Times, in an on-camera interview points out that Valentino is now the last of the great couturiers because he learned his craft back in the 1950s from those who learned from the couturiers of the 1920s. After Valentino, she said, that’s the last of it.

After the screening (the film runs about 100 minutes), the guests moved over to the Plaza and the Oak Room where there was a seated dinner for several hundred celebrating these two men and their brilliant career and life built and shared together. There wasn’t a soul in the audience who wasn’t affected by their success, not only in business, but in life; a love story, not in the romantic sense so much as in the sense of truth and reality. An inspiration.

The film will open theatrically on March 18, 2009 at the Film Forum in New York City and will be released nationally in select cities in April 2009.
Lynn Wyatt and Holly Doran Valentino and Carolyne Roehm
George Wayne
Yaz and Valentin Hernandez, Suzi Cordish, and Valerie Steele Aaron and Leanne Simpson
Exec. Producer Carter Burden 3rd and his mother, Amanda Burden Marjorie Gubelmann Lynn Wyatt and Jamee Gregory
Timothy Fok and Susan Gutfreund Jamee Gregory, Hilary and Wilbur Ross, DPC, and Valentino
Anne Hathaway, Bruce Hoeksema, and Blythe Danner Pepe Fanjul and Peggy Siegal
Martha Stewart Madonna Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia and Vicky Ward
Olivia Chantecaille Alba Clemente and Carlos Souza
Nancy Novogrod Gayle King Adam Lippes and Meredith Melling Burke
Nadine Johnson with Francesco and Alba Clemente Jake Bernstein getting the story
Lauren Santo Domingo and Erin Featherstone Sessa Johnson Richard Johnson
Teri Agins, Dennis Basso, and Amy FIne Collins Byrdie Bell (right)
Roger Waters Amy FIne Collins and daughter, Flora Clo and Charles Cohen
Andre Balazs and Daphne Guinness Carter Burden, Susan Burden, and Gayle King
Agnes Deynes The filmmaker Matt Tyrnauer being congratulated with Susan Burden in front Raj Roy

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