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Beautifully Shot but Ultimately Superficial Biopic of the Great Fashion Designer
YVES SAINT-LAURENT traces the career of the eponymous fashion designer (Pierre Niney) from his early days in the late Fifties to the zenith of his fame two decades later. The film concentrates on his professional as well as his personal struggles with long-time lover (and manager) Pierre Bergé (Guillaume Gallienne).
Director Jalil Lespert makes a lot out of Saint-Laurent's background as an outsider; born in Algeria during the colonial period, he never really felt at home in mainstream Parisian society. He began his career by following existing fashion patterns; but after being dismissed as "boring," immediately after leaving the house of Dior (Patrice Thibaud) he branched out on his own. This proved a wise move, as the film shows how he shot to stardom with a series of daring and often innovatory designs. There are several shots of Saint-Laurent working on his new creations day and night, to the despair of Pierre.
YVES SAINT-LAURENT offers a sumptuous recreation of Fifties and Sixties Parisian society. Deliberately shot in washed-out colors, the film conjures up a lost world of large saloon cars, packed streets and never-ending parties where Saint-Laurent spent most of his leisure-time. The models' hairstyles are deliberately ostentatious, especially that of principal mannequin Victoire (Charlotte Le Bon) who at first attracts and then repels Saint- Laurent.
Lespert's film doesn't tell us much about Saint-Laurent's life, other than the fact that he was something of a tortured genius, always on the lookout for personal as well as professional satisfaction but never seeming to find it. He enjoys a close relationship with his mother (Marianne Basler), and later on in life he always runs back to Pierre for emotional as well as professional support. With his black horn-rimmed lenses and increasingly disheveled hair-styles, Niney gives a convincing portrayal of the designed. On the other hand, perhaps the script should have offered more insight into how Saint-Laurent became such an iconic figure of the fashion world; what was it about him that made him so popular with both high society and the ordinary consumer.
As Pierre, Galienne has to make the best of a supporting role, and succeeds brilliantly. He comes across as a patient person, ever ready to forgive Saint-Laurent's excesses; but nonetheless dedicated to the fledgling fashion-house's future success. In several backstage sequences he is shown managing the models, designers and other assorted hangers-on with quiet efficiency, clipboard in hand. It was mostly down to his efforts that the house of Saint-Laurent enjoyed its global success; without him, the designer might have only had limited appeal.
YVES SAINT-LAURENT is definitely watchable - some of the party- scenes where the hero enters a drug-filled world of fantasy and hallucination
are particularly memorably shot. But I still think the film
represents something of a missed opportunity to dramatize the life of an icon.
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