The veil of secrecy that hangs over the fashion industry almost rivals that of most world governments.
So the fact that "Valentino: The Last Emperor" gets so much access to the world of haute couture is nothing less than astonishing.
However, the film gets in a little too deep for its own good. The filmmaker — former Vanity Fair correspondent Matt Tyrnauer — is clearly smitten with this world and with his subject, designer Valentino Garavani.
In fact, Tyrnauer and the movie seem blinded by Valentino's stardom and start to lose their way. As a result, the documentary is unfocused.
Tyrnauer and his crews shot more than 250 hours of footage between 2005 and 2007, which turned out to be a pivotal period in Valentino's life and career.
A veteran of four-plus decades in the fashion industry, Valentino is shown trying to decide whether to continue his work or whether to retire.
He's also trying to stage a spring show, as well as an even bigger one that will celebrate his anniversary.
Tyrnauer also examines Valentino's relationships with employees, as well as that with his partner — both professionally and personally — Giancarlo Giammetti.
But he becomes obsessed with showing Valentino's celebrity friends and clients, who include Gwyneth Paltrow, Michael Caine and Joan Collins. These bits just aren't that interesting.
And you get the feeling that a few of the interview subjects were reluctant to share their real feelings with the too-friendly filmmaker.
The use of music is questionable as well. When Joel Goodman's score insists that certain scenes are supposed to be funny or at least taken that way, it's pretty irritating.
"Valentino: The Last Emperor" is rated PG-13 and features crude language and references (slang, as well as some sex talk), female nudity and glimpses of nude artwork (paintings and statues), derogatory language and slurs (some based on sexual orientation), and scattered mild profanity (mostly religiously based). Running time: 96 minutes.
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