Manolo: The Boy Who Made Shoes for Lizards

Review by Sofie Steenhaut @sosteenh

Directed by

Michael Roberts

Starring

Manolo Blahnik Rick Kissack River Hawkins

Anticipation.

Another documentary portrait of a fashion icon. Will it be another puff piece?

Enjoyment.

Oh yes. Manolo’s colourful creativity is inspiring, but this film is very repetitive

In Retrospect.

The documentary is only beautiful on the surface.

This portrait of the fashion shoe icon comes across like a feature-length brand endorsement.

Manolo Blahnik, founder of the famous shoe brand that wears his name, holds out a surreal sketch of a stiletto decorated with flowers to the camera. “Oh, I’m sorry, don’t you see? I think you see this nonsense; this is really embarrassing.” The shoe is obviously not meant to be part of his newest collection, but merely an expression of the man’s boundless creativity. Manolo: The Boy Who Made Shoes for Lizards is precisely that: an expression of creativity that turns out to be nonsensical and at times embarrassing.

This documentary by director Michael Roberts – a British fashion writer and artist who also happens to be a good friend of Manolo – is not revolutionary in its talking head format, filled to the brim with god-like praise for the designer and his work by a ridiculous number of famous fashion icons such as Anna Wintour, Andre Leon Talley and his latest collaborator Rihanna.

These testimonies are shot in vibrant colour, contrasted with black-and-white pictures and archive clips from the past, as they guide us through his career in the first half. Alongside these colour-contrasted sequences are reenactments with an overly handsome young actor playing the subject.

When the story catches up to the present, the documentary is only half-way through. It seems like the two friends got lost trying to cram all of their ideas in one movie (the pair even told the New York Times they are working on a second film). The only thing they forgot is Manolo’s humanity. Who he really is – his feelings, regrets or failures. This vital information doesn’t make it to the movie.

Even when he talks about friends who passed away, the man does not show an ounce of emotion. Just like Disney characters who wear gloves always have something to hide, Manolo is almost never seen without his white gloves. His modesty and wit is very charming but feels like a disguise, not only from his real self but the documentary’s lack of objectivity. His mission to make every “ordinary” woman feel beautiful is framed as noble, yet the price of a Manolo heel is skilfully ignored.

Published 28 Sep 2017

Anticipation.

Another documentary portrait of a fashion icon. Will it be another puff piece?

Enjoyment.

Oh yes. Manolo’s colourful creativity is inspiring, but this film is very repetitive

In Retrospect.

The documentary is only beautiful on the surface.

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