The problem with Rodolphe Marconi naming his documentary Lagerfeld Confidential is that he's promising more than he can deliver. Karl Lagerfeld, the artistic director for Chanel, is well-known in the fashion world for his stark-white ponytailed hair, oversized dark glasses, and imperious manner. He's one of those iconic figures who's invested so much in his persona over the decades that he's all but forgotten how to sit down for an ordinary conversation. Even his friends—the socialites for whom he buys expensive gifts and shares fancy dinners—probably know little about him.
Or if they do, Marconi never bothers to ask. Lagerfeld Confidential is The Karl Lagerfeld Show from start to finish, as Marconi follows his subject from fashion show to fashion show and photo shoot to photo shoot, filming a lot of poorly lit handheld shots of Lagerfeld walking around, then pausing periodically to let Lagerfeld make sweeping pronouncements about "work," "death" and "friendship." We get a little Lagerfeld family history, and a reasonable sense of what it's like to jet around from one ritzy affair to another, but as far as what drives Lagerfeld, or what inspires him? Next to nothing. We barely even get to see what Lagerfeld does for his paycheck, let alone why it's so large.
Still, point a camera at someone long enough, and a little bit of truth is bound to sneak through. Lagerfeld Confidential brightens up whenever the designer has a human moment: working at a cluttered desk, taking erotic photographs of a semi-nude hunk, clutching a pillow he's had since boyhood to his stomach to help him calm his flying anxieties, and so on. But those glimmers of personal insight—like Lagerfeld's revelation that he's always working to fix the mistakes of the previous season—are thin on the ground. Lagerfeld reportedly has 70 iPods scattered about his various homes and offices, and yet Marconi doesn't think to ask him about music. He's a legend who's survived for an impressively long time in an industry that's all about change, but Marconi can't get him to offer some basic historical perspective.