Case Number 14449: Small Claims Court


Koch Lorber // 2007 // 91 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // September 4th, 2008

The Charge

"Fashion is ephemeral, dangerous, and unfair."
- Karl Lagerfeld

The Case

This movie confirms what we already know about a 75-year-old man who designs dresses for Chanel: He's crazy, rich, and a total bitch with gangster style. If you say this to his face, he'll hit you with his rings or pop you with a handheld fan. "I'm a complete improvisation..." fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld states in one of Lagerfeld Confidential's many pithy sessions with the legend. It's a hypocritical remark because the line sounds rehearsed as much as everything else swirling around this rock star of the needle and thread industry. Lagerfeld is like a studied actor on his own stage from the moment he wakes up to when he hits the pillow after runway shows, photo shoots, and loud discos cranking out Eurotrash music. The movie attempts to be a candid look at an icon, but rather it becomes exactly what "Mr. Chanel" wants us to see. It's all shiny surface things that are beautiful but ultimately shallow. The final product seems to be no more than a state portrait where the subject has a hand in making himself look as good and mysterious as he prefers. Karl is never seen without glasses, signature white ponytail, at least 500 rings on his fingers, and an almost all black wardrobe a priest would feel dowdy in.

Lagerfeld Confidential is a film that will interest all the Project Runway fans who want to see what a real fashion designer does when he is successful beyond anybody's wildest dreams. Lagerfeld is the creative mind behind his own line, and is also known for resurrecting Chanel, Fendi, and Chloe. He is such a sought after figure that his somewhat affordable collection for New York City's H&M sold out in three days other than a handful of T-shirts with his face emblazoned on them in size XXL. Let's face it, the man is fabulous in his own kinky vision of how he sees himself and the world. Any society woman worth her Prada handbag would kill to get him to help her dress.

This documentary simply follows Karl as he jet sets around the world in his private plane, and never bothers to tell us where we are going or where he has been. Rodolphe Marconi seems tentative to even film Lagerfeld, and during the opening moments of the film he shyly asks if he can start filming as he cautiously lingers in the designer's well appointed yet chaotically cluttered Parisian apartment. We see the camera guy get doors shut in his face and sometimes scolded when he does capture his subject with his guard or sunglasses down. It's amazing to see how Karl Lagerfeld can make a room grow hush as we see servants skitter about and models suddenly grow quiet and childlike in his presence. Even Nicole Kidman seems to clam up once he strolls in to do a photo shoot with the actress. Certainly this is not the world's easiest documentary subject, but Lagerfeld does share some random thoughts about fashion, sex, and religion during the ninety minutes we spend with him. During the course of Lagerfeld Confidential we hear Karl muse that he's for prostitution but against gay marriage. The former he finds admirable, and the later too bourgeois to ever consider. What is missing is any real revelation. The filmmaker lingers on a portrait of Karl's lover (a man long gone), but never explains or asks who he is. We never hear about his rise in the industry, or even a description of what he does today. Instead we have to settle for a glimpse of Lagerfeld's world only as far as he wants us to see it. This consists of fabulous parties, celebrity visits, sessions with impossibly beautiful nude models, and an endless procession of large private cars, planes, and apartments with soft lighting. Oh yeah, and bowls and bowls filled with rings waiting to be picked out for the day's arsenal of jewelry.

In terms of this DVD from Koch Lorber, we are given a straightforward simple presentation. The widescreen transfer looks good, but certainly has that documentary feel with varying degrees of clarity thanks to the unplanned lighting and handheld nature of everything. Soundtrack comes across as a clear unimpressive stereo mostly in French except when an English speaking model or actor is present. Extras include a dozen scenes that were snipped from the final film. They are simply more of the same, but for some reason in full screen rather than the wide of the feature.

Lagerfeld Confidential shows off plenty of exquisite style without offering any substance. There are fun cameos by Nicole Kidman, Anna Wintour, and Princess Caroline of Monaco, but even they have little to say when around this ponytailed tyrant who seems to intimidate the hell out of the entire world. He's "King Bitch" of the fashionistas, and the fun of this documentary is seeing him in his "unnatural" element. It's an eccentric world he has created for himself, not unlike the one I imagine Michael Jackson has constructed. But at least Karl seems to have a good sense of humor, and the humility to admit he is just a lucky guy who got to do all the things he wanted to do. Amazing to think that anyone could have as long of a career as this guy has had, and shows no signs of slowing down well in to his seventies. Lagerfeld is fashion, and is his own words both the man and the industry are "ephemeral, dangerous, and unfair." As a subject he is hard to catch so he is ephemeral, he has a dangerous temper, and it is unfair this film does not delve deeper in to his world.

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Scales of Justice
Judgment: 85

Perp Profile
Studio: Koch Lorber
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)

* English

Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Outtakes
* Trailer

* IMDb

* Official Karl Lagerfeld Site