15 October, 2008
by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor
As one festival closes, another one begins…..such is the film season in New York. The venerable New York Film Festival ended this past Sunday, after an impressive array of film talents presented their films on the glorious screen of the Ziegfield Theater, the city’s largest single-screen establishment (a vestige of cinema’s past glory). After taking a breath for only two solitary days, the cinema action begins anew, this time about 100 miles to the east of the great metropolis, in the idyllic setting of the Hamptons.
Th Hamptons International Film Festival, celebrating its 16th anniversary, has become a destination event for a wide array of film talents, industry attendees and local audiences with a penchant for independent and international cinema. The Festival, which this year will present 122 films, including 14 World Premieres and 23 North American Premieres, runs through this Sunday, October 19. The main event is centered in the upscale beach resort of East Hampton, with additional venues in the storied towns Southampton, Sag Harbor and Montauk.
The Festival was founded to celebrate independent film and to introduce a unique and varied spectrum of international films and filmmakers for its local and visiting audiences. “The process of compiling the slate of films for the 2008 Festival was truly a process of discovery,” says David Nugent, Director of Programming. “The cross-section of films we are seeing this year represent unique and often unheard voices in film. From films made in China, Iran and Denmark, to those made right here in Montauk and East Hampton, I'm excited to be presenting our audiences global perspectives and local voices.”
This year’s event is the first under the helm of Karen Arikian, who came on board last Spring after 3 years as the Co-Market Director of the European Film Market (Berlin). Arikian brings a trans-continental approach to the event, drawing on her many contacts and affiliations over the years. “Our aim this year was to begin to develop long-term partnerships - both here and abroad - in order to solidify the foundation of our festival and to broaden its reach and appeal,” Arikian commented. “I think, with this diverse program, and the many international guests we are expecting, we have achieved this goal.”
The Festivities begin this evening with the U.S. Premiere of Valentino: The Last Emperor, a documentary by Matt Tyrnaner that chronicles the final days of the fashion designer’s 45-year reign at the helm of his own fashion dynasty. The film was produced by Acolyte Films and is being sold internationally by French uber-agent Celluloid Dreams. The film had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival and generated strong buzz at its screening at the Toronto Film Festival last month.
"I know what women want…..they want to look beautiful", says the perpetually tanned Italian fashion designer Valentino Garavani near the beginning of this intimate portrait. Valentino has built an almost fifty-year career on this maxim, forging a global brand out of the refined art of haute couture. Tyrnauer, a journalist for Vanity Fair, set out to chronicle the twighlight years of an old-fashioned stylist who succumbs to the pressure of a globalized economy (a place where there is hardly any room for personal craft or expression). What emerges however is an intimate portrait of a supreme diva, but also an understated love story that charts the 45-year personal and professional relationship with the level-headed Giancarlo Giammetti.
The documentary begins with the Paris pret-a-porter show in February 2007 that turned out to be Valentino's last. The film takes us into the fashion mogul’s Rome-based atelier, where we are reminded that beyond the dazzle and the glamour of the fashion runway, there are a team of hard-working, no-nonsense dressmakers and seamstresses. Fashion at this level is in fact a hand-crafted art, with all the detail and temperament that it implies.
The film revels in unexpected moments of surrealistic comedy, including scenes involving Valentino’s ridiculously pampered dogs, who defecate during photo shoots, have their teeth cleaned by hand, and take up the hostess seat on the designer's private jet. Other priceless moments of high comedy come when Giammetti and Valentino bicker about each other's excess fat, or when Giammetti tells the near-orange couturier that he is perhaps "a little too tanned". Celebrity friends like Gwyneth Paltrow, Elton John and a gaggle of minor Euro-royals provide background color, contributing to a circus-like atmosphere that jet sets from Rome to Paris to New York to Venice.
For those infatuated with the glamour of it all or outsiders who may be intrigued by what goes on behind the scenes at fashion show extravaganzas, the film points out that the glory is bolstered by lots of hard work, agonizing indecision and an agonizing tension that what one dreams is not exactly what one sees in the end. That makes Valentino as much of an artist as any painter or sculptor, and his moody nature belies the pleasures of a life lived at the top of the fashion heap.