Immordino Vreeland: I think we’ve seen a lot of these images before, but it’s very rare to be able to see them all in one film. The way that people communicate, the way that people think, is very different, and their influences are picked up through Instagram. That’s why the credits are there in such a horrible, pedantic manner that I typically do [laughs]—because it’s for people to use. It’s funny because when I present films, people always talk about the credits. It’s a pain because sometimes they’re five or six minutes long, but they actually say, “We’re so grateful because we can actually look at these things now.”
Nars: That’s how I learned everything I learned about doing makeup—by watching all those movies. That was the best school.
Unknown Beauty comes across as a 20th-century portrait, in a way—because we’ve come to expect today’s generation to be all about me, me, me, chronicling every moment of their lives. And this is more about everything else—all that has shaped its subject. It feels generous in that way, almost like sharing a syllabus.
Immordino Vreeland: This tells you so much more about the man. This is part of his life that’s been so private for so long, and he’s letting everybody into this world that he loves so much. It’s stunning how much material there is to see on so many different levels. When it came to the ’70s, there were specific editorials that were on his wall as a child that were important to him. And, let me tell you, if he didn’t have that one editorial in the film, I would just get a text, like, “Oh, wait, we forgot this.” You can totally see where he gets so many ideas about beauty, from Warhol’s L’Amour to Guy Bourdin. There is a connection in everything. My next feature film is on Jean Cocteau. I knew early on that I wanted to have Cocteau visiting, being present in this film on François, because there’s this element of this magician to François that I really liked, and that obviously Cocteau has.
Nars: I have an incredible admiration for Cocteau. I love his books, I love his drawings, I love his films.
François, it’s so great to see the home movies with your parents shown alongside the behind-the-scenes films you later made on set.
Nars: My father always filmed us. Thank God my father had saved all those movies and then we translated them onto DVD.
Your mother, Claudette, inspired one of your recent makeup collections. It’s nice to see her onscreen, as if she’s one of the actresses—Catherine Deneuve, Silvana Mangano—who have been muses for you.
Nars: She could have been one, for sure, because she definitely had quite a face and a very striking beauty—very old Hollywood, in a way. Then in the ’80s, there were the first video cameras from Sony with the tiny little tapes. Every day I would film all the photo shoots, especially with Steven Meisel. We worked for all the magazines, not realizing that someday this would become a time capsule, just to see the girls at that time when they were young. That was the creation of what they called the supermodels.