Tribeca Review: The Director

Ashley Clark

Gucci creative head honcho Frida Giannini is the subject of Kink helmer Christina Voros’ hapless, interminable documentary, The Director. ‘Presented’ and co-produced by ubiquitous media polymath James Franco (who makes a brief, characteristically earnest appearance in a furry jumper) it fails on every conceivable level: as a detailed study of either the subject or her industry; as a piece of competent documentary filmmaking; even as a somewhat entertaining way to spend 90 minutes. It’s so fundamentally slapdash that Giannini isn’t even afforded a proper, full-name introduction. Either you know who she is or you don’t, Voros seems to be saying.

Pretentiously subtitled ‘An Evolution in Three Acts’ and misleadingly divided into ‘Past’, ‘Future’ and ‘Present’, The Director consists mostly of backstage footage at fashion shows and unilluminating interviews largely grabbed at press junkets or red carpets. As an indication of just how little is at stake, the narrative spine of the first section is built around the cliffhanger of whether one foal-like fashion model can sort out his slightly bow-legged walking style (he can’t). The second section follows Giannini to China in point-and-shoot style, eventually leaving us with the jaw-dropping revelation that China might be a bit of a force on the world stage in years to come. Who knew?

Some much-needed context finally arrives in the form of footage shot at Giannini’s glorious Italian family villa (once inhabited by legendary director Pier Paolo Pasolini), where her friendly-seeming parents provide some background information, and Giannini herself rattles off a super-brief, self-deprecating precis of her CV. But if you popped to the toilet at the wrong moment, you could quite easily miss all of this, only to return for yet more footage of designers farting around in a workshop while statuesque young models loiter nervously.

What makes The Director so frustrating is that there are no doubt fascinating issues to be explored. What drives Giannini? How did she work her way to the top? Who are her competitors? When did she meet her husband (...and who is he?) No hard questions are asked, and no external contributors or experts are called upon to provide any context or contrary opinion. Talking heads are commonplace fare in even the most unambitious of docs; here, they would have made all the difference.

Strictly free of both insight and irony, The Director acts as though Robert Altman’s satire Pret-à-Porter, Bret Easton Ellis’ hysterical fashion novel ‘Glamorama’, or the film it inspired, Zoolander, never existed. And, other than the most hardcore of fashionistas, it’s difficult to see who this film could possibly appeal to. The core problem isn’t with Giannini (who comes across as a likeable, formidable and unpretentious woman), but Voros. The Director is ironically titled, because for long stretches of time this glorified promo video feels rather like it doesn’t have one.

Follow Ashley on Twitter: @_Ash_Clark

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