Even in an industry full of eccentrics, Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld is an icon: those omnipresent shades, the man-jewelry, and, of course, the leather glove, which lends his style that special “ringmaster at a Michael Jackson–themed circus” feel. So when filmmaker Rodolphe Marconi touted his new documentary Lagerfeld Confidential as a profound peek behind The Kaiser’s sunglasses, we had to investigate — after all, this is the man who once told Elle, “It’s too easy to forgive. I love revenge.” What could be better than an hour and a half of that?
The answer: a livelier movie made by someone else. Lacking any kind of point of view about its subject, the film just dumps a bunch of random Karl footage on you — he snaps shirtless male models, roams through various buildings, chats at length and inaudibly with Nicole Kidman — and hopes Lagerfeld’s unrelated first-person commentary will magically stitch them together. At times it felt like outtakes from a home video taken by a next-door neighbor. But even that sleepy pacing and rambling style couldn’t bury the more fascinating facets of fashion’s inscrutable High Priest:
Despite popular belief, Karl probably won’t beat you about the head with his many rings. We assumed Lagerfeld ran around Chanel screaming at people to be more fabulous, but he’s actually quite genial to his employees. It’s also worth noting that he refuses to travel without a pillow made by his childhood nurse. Who knew The Kaiser was so cuddly?
His family would make a great soap opera. Though Lagerfeld speaks of his childhood as though it were perfectly normal, psychoanalysts might beg to differ: He calls his mother a “nasty” and “frivolous” woman who “made slaves of her lovers and husbands” and “never thanked anyone,” but he also claims to have adored her and thought “other mothers were stupid.” We wonder if other mothers would have reacted as Karl’s allegedly did when he informed Ma Lagerfeld that he’d been sexually compromised by a pair of adults: “It’s your own fault, just look at you!” Blaming the victim is totally Chanel.
He thinks hookers are the glue of society. Karl waxes at length that prostitution is socially vital because “we can’t all afford mistresses … without relief, we’d all become murderers.” He then opines that porn stars are the best actors because it’s harder to perform a sex act on camera than it is to summon tears. Obviously, Karl hasn’t studied Paris Hilton’s oeuvre.
He’s even messier than we are. Karl’s incomprehensibly cluttered work and living spaces would make Martha Stewart cry: They’re clogged with bowls of rings and accessories, towering stacks of magazines, clothing racks, and at least ten iPods. “I hate hard workers. Things must appear to be casual,” he says. Sweet! We’re never cleaning again.
He is deliciously random. Passing some street construction in Paris, Karl blurts, “I love the smell of a building site,” a sentiment which we hope to see in perfume form as Chanel No. 6. Later, he casually announces, “People with turbulent lives who spend their time on the phone are sexual freelancers.” In addition to making thrillingly little sense, that will look terribly impressive on our résumés.
He could teach Lohan a thing or two. “Solitude is a victory,” Karl booms, and if anyone could benefit from such a mantra, it’s our favorite tragic social butterfly. But he’s got a few more esoteric words of wisdom up his sleeve — or, in this case, up his urinal: Inside the Chanel bathroom, a sign sneers, “Pissing everywhere isn’t very Chanel.” True on many levels; indeed, we can think of several celebrities who should have their childhood nannies stitch that onto a pillow. —The Fug Girls