Rodolphe Marconi talks of Karl Lagerfeld's greatest regret, and the side of his personality he kept from the public
Rodolphe Marconi, director of a renowned documentary about Karl Lagerfeld, is remembering the late fashion designer as a complex figure whose iconic persona masked the full dimensions of the man.
In an interview with RFI (Radio France Internationale) Wednesday, Marconi said the man he got to know while making Lagerfeld Confidential was surprisingly warm, despite his public reputation for cutting remarks and dismissive comments (i.e. "Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants.").
He was really warm, really.
"One day I asked him, 'Karl, why do you pass yourself off as someone who is unsympathetic?' And he said, 'You’re exactly right. That helps me avoid all sorts of parasites. That’s my secret,'" Marconi recalled. "People who know me know who I am. Everyone else, who cares."
Marconi added, "He was really warm, really… He helped many, many people without drawing attention to it."
Lagerfeld died in Paris on Tuesday at the age (according to most sources) of 85. The New York Times called him "the most prolific designer of the 20th and 21st centuries." In addition to founding his own fashion line, Lagerfeld, he had served as creative director of Fendi since 1965 and creative director of Chanel since 1983.
The Times also described Lagerfeld as "a man whose career formed the prototype of the modern luxury fashion industry," a reference to his capacity to reinvent legacy brands for contemporary consumers. He was also a noted photographer and directed video features for Chanel starring Nicole Kidman, Kristen Stewart, Pharrell Williams and others.
As famous as he was -- his signature look of dark sunglasses, leonine white coiffure and gloved hands was instantly recognizable -- the designer was not celebrated for developing an unprecedented silhouette, unlike some other fashion greats.
In his RFI interview, Marconi recalled telling the designer that Chanel and Yves Saint-Laurent became known for styles they had invented whereas "when people think of Lagerfeld, they think of Lagerfeld."
"[That] was his great regret, I think. Is there a Karl Lagerfeld style as there is a Saint-Laurent style? I’m not sure," Marconi commented. "It was his persona" that stood out foremost.
Marconi related several anecdotes about the making of his documentary, including his attempt to get Lagerfeld to share some photos of his childhood. They don't exist, the designer insisted. But months after making that declaration, Lagerfeld showed up with a photo album packed with family pictures.
He guarded his past, preferring to create personal myth instead of strict biography.
"There are so many versions of his childhood, his mother and his history. We don’t know what’s true and what isn’t," Marconi admitted. As far as stories of his mother went, Lagerfeld embroidered on reality "to render her perhaps not sympathetic but interesting and funny."
The RFI host asked the filmmaker if he and Lagerfeld spoke in depth about fashion.
"No. It’s bizarre," Marconi replied. "People thought Karl was really the Kaiser of fashion. But for him, fashion was just a part of his life. Of course he designed every day because he had collections to do for Chanel, for Lagerfeld. We talked a lot about art. He dreamed of being a portraitist, caricaturist. I think in fact he dreamed of being an architect."
Lagerfeld Confidential is available on DVD. Watch the trailer below.
'Free Solo' crosses $16 million mark at doc box office, but 'They Shall Not Grow Old' keeps top spot
Josh Groban concert documentary Bridges opens in second place
Peter Jackson's World War I documentary They Shall Not Grow Old keeps adding to its impressive box office total.
The 3D film, which features colorized archival footage of "the war to end all wars," pushed its cume to $14,271,347 over the Presidents Day holiday weekend, according to data provided by audience measurement firm comScore. It has held the top spot among nonfiction films in theatrical release for three weeks now.
Coming in second place was the concert doc Josh Groban Bridges, which was filmed during a live performance by the singer at Madison Square Garden. It racked up $273,849, comScore reported, playing at 390 locations on a single night--February 12.
Free Solo crossed the $16 million mark in total returns over the weekend, in its 21st week in theaters. The film by E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin has become the second most popular documentary released in the past year, trailing only Won't You Be My Neighbor?, which collected $22.8 million.
Free Solo competes for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature this weekend.
Trailer for HBO's controversial 'Leaving Neverland' doc triggers angry reaction from Michael Jackson fans
Dan Reed's film centers on two men who say Jackson sexually abused them as boys
HBO has released a trailer for its explosive two-part documentary Leaving Neverland, a film that depicts late entertainer Michael Jackson as a pedophile who sexually abused young boys. MJ's fans are predictably reacting negatively, flooding YouTube with hundreds of angry comments.
"HBO, one word: shame!" wrote a fan under the user name Michael Jackson FanSquare.
In the hours since the trailer appeared online Tuesday it has quickly accumulated more than a quarter million views. Just over 780 viewers have given it a thumbs up, but more than 3,000 gave it thumbs down.
Part one of the film directed by Dan Reed debuts on HBO on March 3, with part two debuting on March 4. Leaving Neverland is based on disturbing accounts from James Safechuck and Wade Robson who claim the pop superstar engaged in long-term sexual relationships with them starting when they were pre-teens. Robson says he and Jackson had sex regularly from the time he was 7 until age 14. Safechuck says his romantic relationship with Jackson, which allegedly included a mock wedding where they exchanged vows, started when he was 10.
"Wade Robson is a cold man. STOP LYING!" commented user MJUnity Family on YouTube. "I feel sorry for people who believe in these lies," declared user Klaudia 2001.
"Michael Jackson was an angel sent to this earth and we never deserved him," opined a user named Ross McKernan.
The Jackson estate has denounced the men as liars. But audiences at the Sundance Film Festival were sufficiently moved by Robson and Safechuck's testimony to give the men a standing ovation at the world premiere.
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.