As the director of the best dressed films in contemporary Italian cinema, it’s no surprise that Luca Guadagnino was the man endorsed by luxury brand Salvatore Ferragamo to make a documentary ode dedicated to its long-deceased founder. Anyone expecting the usual extravagant stylistic flourishes of Guadagnino applied to the subject, however, may be surprised to find that “Salvatore: Shoemaker of Dreams” is a rather conventional affair, detailing the journey of the famous shoe designer, from the humble origins of the village from early Hollywood success to fashion. world royalty in single lines, filled with talking heads and flickering archival images. More of a sensible doc pump than a flashy stylus, the film nonetheless offers something to delight fashionistas, with particularly welcome details on the practical craftsmanship of Guadagnino’s fancy (and often fancy) shoes.
At full two hours, however, the film is undeniably too long and much more engaging in its first half, which covers Ferragamo’s tough Neapolitan debut and his lively career as a shoemaker for the stars in 1920s Tinseltown with a mix of romantic evocation and capricious historical expertise. Once the focus shifts from the creator’s life to his legacy, things get a little less interesting and more respectful, especially when a parade of extended family members offer their own heartfelt but often vague tributes to a man. that many of them have never experienced firsthand. Sony Pictures Classics has already acquired worldwide rights (outside of Italy) to “Salvatore” ahead of its Venice premiere, but a bit of cropping would be desirable ahead of release if the film is to follow in the hefty footsteps of other fashions. recent. documents like “McQueen” and “Dior et moi”
Fashion journalist Dana Thomas is a smart choice to write the script for the doc. She had a bestseller in 2007 with “Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Luster,” a study on the consolidation of family luxury goods businesses, so that she understands the value of the Ferragamo business model of sustainability. Not that the film goes into the modern details of fashion retail. Thomas works primarily from Ferragamo’s 1957 autobiography “Shoemaker of Dreams,” meaning his voice – whether present in vintage recordings or channeled through the calming narration of Michael Stuhlbarg – predominates, with a high-level effusion on the art of his trade.
Even before a voiceover enters, that tone is set by a wordless establishment sequence that follows the progress of a single Ferragamo shoe through the production line, from the effortless precise cut of the leather, to the passing through the secure application of a high heel, to a final shine of red sparkle. The end product looks like a very chic upgrade to Dorothy’s ruby slippers in “The Wizard of Oz,” as if to tease how classic Hollywood will feature in the proceedings.
First, however, there is a quick summary of Ferragamo’s upbringing as the eleventh 14-year-old in a working-class family in Bonito village, and his early fascination with the local shoemaker – much to the dismay of his elders, who considered shoemaking the lowest of all trades. Undeterred, he moved to Naples at the age of 11 to master craftsmanship in the city’s hottest stores, before returning home to open his own boutique when he hit puberty. , and finally set off for America when he was still a teenager. It’s almost surprising that a narrative biopic hasn’t been done about this early education alone, perhaps through a Tornatore-style dew lens, although Guadagnino cuts through it fairly quickly.
Once young Ferragamo arrives at Ellis Island, “Salvatore” really hits his mark with an enticing mix of diarized facts, biographical speculation, and “go west, young man” mythology. Moving to Santa Barbara – back when, rather than Hollywood, it was the epicenter of America’s fledgling film industry – he plied his trade in making shoes (and, of course, boots of cowboy by the dozen) for various studio costume departments. Among his admiring customers was Cecil B. DeMille, who reportedly joked, “The West would have been conquered sooner if they had had boots like these. As the star system came into being, Ferragamo’s shoes became a glamorous benchmark for Gloria Swanson, Joan Crawford, and close friend Rudolph Valentino.
Even moviegoers who can’t distinguish a strap from a wedge sandal will be engrossed in this passage, complemented by contributions from various film critics and historians, as well as a lively Martin Scorsese like never before. It’s hard not to feel regret when we move on to the Italian homecoming of Ferragamo in 1927: the designer’s glory days may have been before him, but the film never regains that level of fun, as we are informed in a rather superficial way. about the creation of a new workshop in Florence, its bankruptcy in 1933 and its possible resurgence in a context of fascist political unrest. (“It wasn’t the happiest time in Italy,” we are told, a little timidly.) World War II presented Ferragamo with unexpected opportunities to show off his design ingenuity, as he faced a shortage of leather by working ingeniously with materials like cork and thread.
Yet his evolution to a heavyweight in the fashion world is covered in skills that are slightly similar to Wikipedia’s, as even talking heads like Christian Louboutin (who discusses the value of innovation over invention) and Manolo Blahnik don’t have any particularly inspired ideas to bring to the party. And despite the Ferragamo Clan’s strong presence in the interview set – including his late widow Wanda, and several of his six children and 23 grandchildren – we are not told anything substantive about the man himself, beyond what we glean from a handful of pretty but without context.
The film’s narrative essentially ends with Ferragamo’s untimely death in 1960 and the takeover of the business by Wanda’s family. Fashion enthusiasts might want more details on how the brand has spread to other accessories and evolved over time (or, indeed, for any attention to Ferragamo’s accomplishments in the design of men’s shoes). Laymen, however, may feel like they’ve had their smugness – “Salvatore” seems aware of the compromises he has to make to engage the two mobs.
Perhaps an unexpected flight of fancy at the end was one of them: a CGI “shoe ballet” by Oscar-nominated host PES, which envisions some of Ferragamo’s most famous shoe designs. like dancing figures in a swirling Busby Berkeley-style musical number. Its garish digital opulence doesn’t match anything else in the movie, making it feel more nailed down than climaxing – but you can’t call your doc “Shoemaker of Dreams” without a little flickering whimsy.
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