There are shoemakers, and then there's Salvatore Ferragamo—whose glittering life is explored in this affectionate, glam-packed documentary film by award-winning Italian director Luca Guadagnino.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2023
Italian glamour, the pursuit of the American dream and Hollywood glamour are key touchpoints underpinning the life of one of the most revered shoemakers of our times. Who knew the origins of the 1947 creation of the ”invisible shoe” or the rainbow-coloured platform sandal once worn by Judy Garland in 1938, an early precursor to disco fashion of the 70s?
Ferragamo's unrelenting passion is one stemmed from boyhood growing up poor in Bonito, Italy, when he first created shoes for his sisters’ holy communion. His journey to California in 1915 aged 16 was perilous, yet it didn't take long for him to earn the sacred trust of Hollywood titans—including Cecil B. DeMille, Joan Crawford, Mary Pickford and Rudolph Valentino. His attention to detail marked him as a design genius entrusted with famous feet the world over, creating shoes often referred to as works of art. His scientific approach to the foot leaves much to be admired. As he elucidates, "a good foot—its muscles firm, its arch strong—is a delight to touch. A masterpiece of divine workmanship. My desire to work with feet was unrelenting.".
His return to Florence after 13 years in Hollywood is another fascinating look at this full-circle journey of taking Italian fashion to the world—then home again, redefining post-war glamour and asserting Italian-made luxury as one to be desired. Director Luca Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name [NZIFF 2017], I Am Love [NZIFF 2010]), lets his unapologetic eye for beauty permeate this insightful documentary, bringing to life Ferragamo's 1955 memoir of the same name with actor Michael Stuhlbarg's soothing narration; and cameo interviews with film titan Martin Scorcese, fashion journalist Suzy Menkes, shoe designer Manolo Blahnik and fashion editor Grace Coddington further add to Ferragamo's significant legacy.— Dan Ahwa.