Salvatore: Shoemaker of Dreams delves into the rags to riches life of the shoemaker to the stars

If you measured Salvatore Ferragamo’s legacy in shoe sizes, the Italian fashion giant’s influence would be bigger than former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal’s size 23 Reebook Shaq Attaq boot.

Shaq happened to do his best work in Los Angeles like Ferragamo, only the basketballer did it with the Lakers and the Italian shoemaker did it with the early stars of Hollywood after moving to America from Italy in 1915.

The shoemaker worked in Hollywood for more than a decade, making shoes for the stars when they weren’t making films and designing shoes to wear on set when they were.

The exotic curled-toe shoes worn by Douglas Fairbanks in 1924’s quiet daredevil The Thief of Baghdad were Ferragamo originals.

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This amazing shared history with Hollywood is the most intriguing part of a new documentary about Ferragamo, Salvatore: Shoemaker of Dreams, not least because of the stark contrast to its humble origins.

Born the 11th of 14 children to a working-class family in the small village of Bonita, Ferragamo grew up fascinated by the shoemaker’s workshop beneath his parents’ home.

He dreamed of nothing else than taking up the profession himself, much to the chagrin of his parents, who, like everyone else in the village, considered shoemakers to be the lowest social class.

When he was a young boy, he undeterred making his first pair of shoes for his sister to wear to church when his parents realized that young Salvatore’s desire to make shoes was less a dream than a calling.

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Amazingly, at the tender age of 11, he was living alone in Naples and had almost mastered his craft.

When considering a director to film this incredible true story, it’s hard to imagine anyone better than Italian auteur Luca Guadagnino.

Guadagnino has made his name with stylish, artistic films like Call Me by Your Name and the 2018 remake of Suspiria, and he brings the same eye for detail to Shoemaker of Dreams, based on Ferragamo’s 1950s autobiography of the same name .

Truth be told, the director is perhaps too reverent with his subject and this has resulted in a film that is overly long and bogged down in talking heads in the second half.

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These talking heads are pretty impressive, mind you, and they include Martin Scorsese and modern day shoe kings Manolo Blahnik and Christian Louboutin.

But the highlight is the Hollywood chapter, which features such gems as Ferragamo discovering Joan Crawford after he crowned her the winner of a best ankle contest.

3.5 stars

Starring: Martin Scorsese, Manolo Blahnik, Christian Louboutin

Rating: MA15+

In the cinema: Screening as part of the ST. ALi Italian Film Festival, which runs until October 16th.

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