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

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

Shaq, coincidentally, like Ferragamo, did his best work in Los Angeles, 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, crafting shoes for the stars when they weren’t making films, and designing footwear to be worn on set when they were.

The exotic curl-toed shoes worn by Douglas Fairbanks in the 1924 silent swashbuckler, The Thief of Bagdad, were Ferragamo originals.

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

Born the 11th of 14 children in a working-class family in the small village of Bonita, Ferragamo grew up enthralled by the shoemaker’s workshop that was located under his parents’ apartment.

He dreamed of nothing but taking up the trade himself, much to the distress of his mum and dad, who, like everyone else in the village, considered shoemakers to exist on the lowest social stratum.

Undeterred, when he was still a little boy, he fashioned his first pair of shoes for his sister to wear to church, which was when his parents realised young Salvatore’s desire to make shoes was less a dream as a calling.

By the tender age of 11, astonishingly, he was living alone in Naples, having almost mastered his craft.

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

Guadagnino has made his name making stylish, artsy film such as Call Me by Your Name and the 2018 remake of Suspiria, and he brings the same eye for detail to Shoemaker of Dreams, which is based on Ferragamo’s 1950s autobiography of the same name.

Truth be told, the director is perhaps too reverential with his subject, and that has resulted in a film that is overlong and gets bogged down in talking heads in the second half.

Those talking heads are pretty impressive, mind you, and include Martin Scorsese and modern shoe royalty Manolo Blahnik and Christian Louboutin.

But the highlight is the Hollywood chapter, which features such gems as Ferragamo discovering Joan Crawford after judging her the winner of a best ankles competition.

3.5 stars

Starring: Martin Scorsese, Manolo Blahnik, Christian Louboutin

Rating: MA15+

In Cinemas: Screening as part of the ST. ALi Italian Film Festival which runs until Oct 16.

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