Running time: 103 minutes. Not rated (poverty, violence). At the Film Forum, Houston Street, west of Sixth Avenue.
THE first thing brought to mind by mention of Imelda Marcos is shoes. Thousands of them. Enough, it was once said, that Mrs. Marcos could change shoes every day for 8 years and never wear the same pair twice.
But the story of the charismatic, narcissistic woman is more complex than that, as we learn in the fascinating documentary \"Imelda.\"
Independent filmmaker Ramona S. Diaz spent six weeks with the former Philippine first lady, who with her husband, President Ferdinand Marcos brutally ruled the nation for 20 years, racking up a personal fortune in the billions while doing little for the impoverished residents.
Election fraud and civil-rights abuses went unchecked, and some have accused the two of killing a political rival.
The fashionably dressed Mrs. Marcos is ever so charming as she talks to the camera. You almost believe her when she says that her husband, who died in 1989 while in exile in Hawaii, \"was so democratically committed.\"
(Once the darlings of the U.S. government, the Marcoses with a push from Washington fled the Philippines after a popular uprising in 1986.)
More difficult to understand is why, even after being convicted of corruption and losing a $2 billion human-rights lawsuit, she\'s treated like a conquering hero by the masses in her homeland.
There are wonderful old shots of Mrs. Marcos dancing with Henry Kissinger; being serenaded by George Hamilton (\"We can\'t give you anything but love, Imelda\"); holding hands with Mao; and meeting with the pope, Khadafy, Castro and former presidents Nixon, Reagan, Johnson and Carter.
Throughout, Mrs. Marcos comes across as an elitist, insulated against real life by wealth and power yet one who truly believes she is misunderstood and has done nothing wrong.
As she tells Diaz: \"I seem to be able only to see the positive things in life, and the beautiful things in life. When I see, for instance, garbage and ugliness, I turn my back.\"
A \"beyond the shoes\" documentary on the former first lady of the Philippines, Imelda Marcos.
Why Imelda Marcos would allow filmmaker Ramona Diaz to get as close to her for as long as she does is anyone\'s guess, but this is documentary film at its best. At 70, Imelda is every bit the royal: charming, poised, beautiful, grand. \"Imelda\" is an excellent character study in power, greed and delusion.
Some of my favorite moments in the film:
* Anytime Imelda opens her mouth, especially when she espouses her views on beauty, truth and love: give people enough rope and they hang themselves.
* George Hamilton serenading Imelda aboard her yacht: \"I can\'t give you anything but love, Imelda.\"
* Female security guard at the Imelda Marcos Shoe Museum who whispers to the camera that she sometimes sneaks in and tries some of them on.
* Imelda dancing with Henry Kissinger
* Imelda\'s description of the assassination attempt against her, \"And he used such an ugly instrument. At least he could have tied a little bow on it or something.\"
* Comments from opposition are sometimes deadly accurate: \"She built so many public works, she had an edifice complex.\"
This movie is available on DVD. Hard to find, but more people should see it. What it provides that I have never seen before is a closeup of one of the world\'s most notorious she-villains and the global power circles where she once strode.