To the uninitiated, the world of high fashion might seem a galaxy away when trying to decode the styles and muses of its veritable designers. One such designer has been been credited with crafting the significant tone of women’s shoes around the world for nearly fifty years, and filmmaker Michael Roberts make his feature debut inside the creative world of Manolo Blahnik. Though brimming with its subject’s vibrant aesthetic and personality, made all the more fascinating and lively by the various people making up his life, Manolo: The Boy Who Made Shoes For Lizards stumbles when assembling all of these pieces into a cohesive and engaging whole and becomes a sum conspicuously much less than its parts.
“…made all the more fascinating and lively by the various people making up his life.”
Ascribing more as a cobbler than a designer, Blahnik leads a mass remembrance of key moments in the world of fashion and how he has been involved up to the present day. Interviewing individuals from Naomi Campbell to Sofia Coppola (for whom Blahnik designed shoes for Marie Antoinette, 2006), the audacious man considered the “best shoe-maker of the 20th and 21st centuries” is built up almost to ethos, with hardly a sour word even considered when asked. Blahnik then grounds his image in reality, pursuing his idea of heaven far away from the idea of fame. As the film catches up to the present with the day-to-day of the fashion icon, his importance is hotly debated amongst his contemporaries, all the while considering it himself.
The strong opening and closing credit sequences are rich and enchanting with stylish animation that would be home in any Pixar film. The presentation captures attentions swiftly, and stokes our imaginations with its quirky score by Brian and Warren Bennett. Cinematographer Nicola Daley’s shot choices throughout dramatic recreations, interview footage, and an odd fantasy interlude is mostly conventional with splashes of vivaciousness, somewhat succeeding without matching Blahnik’s immersive flare. Editing by Arturo Calvete and Richard Guard results in an extensive jumble of different tones, pacing and intents; initially scrapbooking memories chronologically before tottering to a crawl as an intimate look at Blahnik’s process and inspiration. All of these elements are warranted, but they simply are not cohesively fluid in the structure that they exist.
“A film worth watching, but not necessarily more than once.”
Halfway through the uneven mishmash of focuses lacing succinct segues, I was ready for the film to end. Ultimately, Manolo: The Boy Who Made Shoes For Lizards is better at capturing the tones of the times visited rather than proving the significance of its subject. An amusing and light-hearted story that could have found success as a documentary by either blending the active themes with more solidarity; or strengthening contextual and historical data to give the overall intent more validity to accompany the personality of each interviewee. A film worth watching, but not necessarily more than once.
Manolo: The Boy Who Made Shoes For Lizards (2017) Directed by: Michael Roberts. Written by: Michael Roberts. Starring: Manolo Blahnik, River Hawkins, Rick Kissack, Gala Gordon, Isabeli Fontana, Eva Herzigova, Aki Omoshaybi.
★★½ / ☆☆☆☆☆