was the first fashion designer to be given his own exhibition at the
Metropolitan Museum of Art and was recently the subject of a comprehensive
retrospective at the Denver Art Museum. However, Yves Saint Laurent’s did not
always act in a manner appropriate for such hallowed institutions. Jalil
Lespert gets the first crack at dramatizing Saint Laurent’s storied career and
chaotic private life with Yves Saint
opens this Wednesday at Film Forum.
treatment reaches international audiences before Bertrand Bonello’s even more
simply titled Saint Laurent (sort of
like the competing Ip Man films), but they are both trailing Pierre Thoretton’s
should-have-been-better documentary, L’Amour fou. Like Thoretton, Lespert set sail with the blessing of Saint Laurent’s
longtime life partner, business fixer, and co-collector Pierre Bergé.
Ironically, this seems to have given Lespert considerable license to explore
some of the darker corners of the designer’s psyche.
meet Saint Laurent as an earnest young French Algerian, who is too delicate for
a settler’s life, but still considers Algiers as French as the Champs-Elysees. Soon
he relocates to Paris, working his way up the design ranks at the house of
Dior. When it is time for Saint Laurent to strike out on his own, it will be Bergé
who raises the necessary funds. As the responsible one, Bergé will also patch
Saint Laurent together after his various breakdowns. Yet, despite his efforts,
keeping Saint Laurent away from the temptations of fast living becomes a full
time losing battle.
Lespert offers up plenty of Saint Laurent’s dark nights of the soul, he still
knows what most patrons want from a movie like this: pretty clothes and pretty
people. Thanks to the YSL archive and Charlotte Le Bon appearing as Saint
Laurent’s former favorite model Victoire Doutrelaeu, Lespert’s film has plenty
of both. In fact, Le Bon adds a wonderfully melodramatic edge to the
Smet is also nicely decorative as Doutreleau’s replacement, Loulou de la
Falaise, but she is just overwhelmed by the psychedelic trappings of the late
1960s-early 1970s era. Frankly, the same largely applies to Lespert’s ostensive
lead, the feather-light and paper-thin Pierre Niney (of the Comédie Française).
Perhaps by design, his Saint Laurent is largely a cipher, unto which everyone
else projects the YSL they need or want.
logically given Bergé’s support, Saint Laurent’s long suffering partner emerges
as the emotional center and dramatic anchor of Lespert’s bio-pic. Guillaume Gallienne
(also of the Comédie Française) is terrific balancing the YSL CEO’s jealousy
and wounded pride, as well as resoluteness and maturity. It really is Bergé’s
film and Gallienne carries it, accordingly. In fact, you have to give the real
life Bergé credit for having the guts to throw China’s human rights record back
in its face when they demanded the return of two Winter Palace bronzes he put
up for auction as part of the collection he amassed with Saint Laurent.
There is plenty of scandal and heartache in
Lespert’s YSL, but it is a rather
pleasant viewing experience thanks to his light touch and spritely pace.
Ibrahim Maalouf’s upbeat soundtrack, stylishly mixing elements of jazz and 1960s
pop also provides a key assist, as well as one of the film’s most accomplished
creative collaborators, Italian alto and tenor saxophonist Stefano di Battista.
It all looks and sounds great, which its subjects would most certainly
appreciate. Recommended for fans of high fashion and fashionable House of Eliott-style drama, Yves Saint Laurent (the first one) opens
this Wednesday (6/25) at New York’s Film Forum.
Labels: Charlotte Le Bon, French Cinema, Laura Smet, Stefano di Battista, Yves Saint Laurent