The Screening Room Blog
Friday, August 29, 2008
Who owns this mystery yacht?
VENICE, Italy -- Yesterday, I experienced one of those strange moments when life imitates art.

There is the most huge, glamorous yacht moored next to the waterfront outside my hotel near St Mark’s Square in Venice. This thing must be about 50 meters long. It’s all mahogany panelling, white-clad deckhands and, of course, the ubiquitous sunglasses-wearing security men loitering outside.

Each morning as I wander down the waterfront to catch the vaporetto (water bus) across the lagoon to the Lido where the festival is running, I wonder who on earth owns this floating behemoth.

Yesterday, completely by accident, I solved the mystery.

I was in the festival’s cavernous Sala Grande cinema watching a documentary when the very boat –- moored in exactly the same position –- popped up on the screen!

I now know the boat belongs to tan-fastic Italian couturier Valentino Garavani who is in town for the premiere of “Valentino: The Last Emperor.” I am now also fully au fait with the interior of his floating palace.

The film is great, too. I went in expecting 90 minutes of fashion fluff, but ex-journalist Matt Tyrnauer ended up chronicling Valentino's last days at the head of the fashion house he created more than 40 years ago.

The ex-Vanity Fair special correspondent managed to gain complete access to Valentino and his associate of 47 years, Giancarlo Giammetti. “They were extraordinarily brave to let cameras live with them for two years. I think that was admirable,” says the director.

The crowd gave Valentino a standing ovation at the end of the screening:

Valentino says: "I wanted to show myself as I am because I couldn't care less about the camera." And there are some hilarious moments -- one of his five pugs having his teeth brushed by the butler; an unplanned moment where the maestro throws a hissy fit because he's not getting enough attention: "I want everyone on their knees in front of me!"

But the film is also moving. Tyrnauer can't have known it would end like this, but he ended up shooting 250 hours of footage during the time of a hostile takeover that led to the 75-year-old maestro being replaced as head of Valentino by 35-year-old ex-Gucci designer Alessandra Fachinetti.

Ultimately, the film is an extraordinary portrait of Valentino and Giametti's relationship. It's not made explicit whether the couple's bond extends beyond the boardroom, but when Valentino accepts the Legion d'Honneur it is Giametti to whom he offers an emotional special thanks.

As I walked to my hotel last night, Valentino was partying the night away at his opening night bash with the likes of Eva Herzigova. I looked up at the windows of the boat feeling like I knew the distant man a little more intimately.

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