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Director Matt Tyrnauer has a new documentary out: Citizen Jane: Battle for the City, a study of the legendary writer and activist Jane Jacobs. If Tyrnauer's name rings a bell, that's because his previous film was Valentino: The Last Emperor, that intimate, ageless portrait of Mr. Valentino, his maison in the run-up to his retirement, and his oh-so-dolce vita. If you haven't yet experienced The Last Emperor, it's a must-see, edifying in regard to both Mr. Valentino's creative process, and the logistics of boarding a half dozen pugs onto a private jet.


The Last Emperor was Tyrnauer's first film, and it grew out of a 2004 profile of Mr. Valentino that he wrote for the magazine Vanity Fair. Journalist and subject developed a rapport, and Tyrnauer, struck by the visual richness of Mr. Valentino's world—a richness that couldn't be adequately conveyed in print—asked him and Mr. Giammetti if he could continue to shadow them, this time with camera in tow. They agreed, and over three years of shooting, Tyrnauer became, in his words, "a member of the family," with nearly unfettered access to Mr. Valentino, Mr. Giammetti, and the workers in the Valentino atelier.


Tyrnauer's key aesthetic reference in making The Last Emperor was the work of the Maysles Brothers, in particular their film Grey Gardens. The Maysles' matter-of-fact, fly-on-the-wall shooting style seemed the best way, according to Tyrnauer, of capturing the extraordinary. And as he told Filmmaker magazine, Mr. Valentino's life is "unreal." "He lives in a castle some days of the week, he lives in a villa outside Rome on some others…there's the room in London that has five Picassos, and you just don't see that in everyday life." In the same interviewer, Tyrnauer went on to point out that he was attracted not just to Mr. Valentino's lifestyle, but to his character—and the difference between the real man and the Valentino persona. "Valentino's told his story for years and he's come up with a narrative that's the Valentino story," Tyrnauer explained, "but it's not necessarily the real story. That's excusable when you're a public figure…but the real story and the real Valentino is much, much more interesting."


Indeed, even for familiars of Mr. Valentino in the fashion world, The Last Emperor proved revelatory. And for viewers new to Valentino, or who only knew the brand, the film introduced not only the "real" Valentino, but the other key character in the Valentino story: Giancarlo Giammetti, who until then had mostly remained in the shadows. Both Mr. Giammetti and Mr. Valentino got their turn on the red carpet when The Last Emperor premiered to raves at the Venice Film Festival in 2008—and again at its gala New York premiere the following April, where they were joined by numerous fabulous friends, including Anne Hathaway and Gwyneth Paltrow. They, like Tyrnauer, are members of the Valentino's extended family. And any viewer of The Last Emperor comes away feeling that she is, too.



Image: Filmmaker Magazine

Image: Filmmaker Magazine

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