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The most potent, and poignant, tribute in the sweet back-scratch of a documentary “Manolo: The Boy Who Made Shoes for Lizards” is that Anna Wintour lets you see her eyes.

Normally, that fearsome Vogue editor wears sunglasses — in the front row of fashion shows; when she was made a dame earlier this year. But for Manolo Blahnik, maker of some of the most sublime women’s footwear of the past four decades, she drops the lenses and lets her eyes, and feelings, show.


Trailer: 'Manolo'

A preview of the film.

By MUSIC BOX FILMS on Publish Date September 10, 2017. Image courtesy of Internet Video Archive. Watch in Times Video »

Mr. Blahnik inspires this warmth by dint of his shoes and also his character, which is eccentrically patrician, starry eyed, elegant. (He wears the hell out of a lilac suit.) He’s a man who describes wisteria — the word, but presumably also the plant — as “so Olympic, it’s so hedonistic in a way.”

But this film, directed by the fashion writer and editor Michael Roberts, doesn’t aspire beyond embrace. It rushes through Mr. Blahnik’s biography, dwelling on pop-culture moments and blandly ecstatic celebrity testimonials (not counting the uproarious André Leon Talley, who insists Mr. Blahnik is “up there with Baudelaire”). It also leans heavily at times on recreated footage of Mr. Blahnik’s childhood, as well as on a bizarre scene imagining a 1930s African society party in which a white woman emerges from a gorilla costume.

There is little accounting of his inner life, or for that matter of his creative gifts, which are quite exquisite. And though there are some cleverly conceived but blindingly lighted scenes of Blahnik shoes in nature, or nestled amid sculpture or architecture, there is nothing systematic to the way the shoes are discussed or filmed. In a scene puzzlingly late in the film, Mr. Blahnik, who apparently still makes samples by hand, walks through his factory and finesses a sensuous heel out of a stump of wood. More of that would have made this confection about a radiant man into something sturdier.


Manolo: The Boy Who Made Shoes for Lizards

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  • Director Michael Roberts

  • Stars River Hawkins, Rick Kissack, Manolo Blahnik, Gala Gordon, Isabeli Fontana

  • Running Time 1h 29m

  • Genres Documentary, Biography, Drama

  • > Movie data powered by

    Last updated: Sep 19, 2017

Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 29 minutes.

A version of this review appears in print on September 15, 2017, on Page C9 of the New York edition with the headline: Manolo: The Boy Who Made Shoes for Lizards. Order Reprints| Today's Paper|Subscribe

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