Since my days at Spy magazine back in the 1840s, I have known a strawberry-blond eccentric named Matt Tyrnauer. He is a dear friend and a fellow Vanity Fair writer. A few years ago, Matt decided to take the kind of bold leap to which I am congenitally averse: He wanted to expand the magazine profile he’d written about the couturier Valentino into a full-fledged documentary that he would direct himself. With cameras and everything.
Several arduous years later, Matt is on a glorious victory lap with the finished film, Valentino: The Last Emperor, which, as of this week, is the highest-grossing documentary of 2009. Even if I was not Matt’s friend, I would tell you this is a fantastic movie; you needn’t be a fashion person, a perma-tanned Italian, a woman, a pug owner, or a homosexual to fall for it. It’s just a fun, fizzy plunge into a great milieu, plus it has unforeseen heart.
Valentino: The Last Emperor is playing in limited release in a bunch of theaters nationally, with Matt himself introducing the film and taking questions in New York, Chicago, L.A., and quite possibly other cities over the next few weeks. Visit the movie’s Web site to get the details.