Yves St Laurent, indisputably one of the finest fashion designers and couturiers of the last century, is again the focus of another major movie picture that is as much about as his wild and wicked ways off the catwalk than the creations that he sent down it every season. Following fast on the heels of last years ‘Yves Saint Laurent’ this new movie from director and co-writer Bertrand Bonello hones in on the troubled designers life from 1967 to 1976 when he was at the peak of his career, which seems to also be the time when he played rather hard too.
Something of a party-loving playboy Saint Laurent is seen picking up models Betty Catroux and Loulou in nightclubs and persuading them to be both his muse and playmates when he loves to burn the candles at both ends. At the same time even though he and Pierre Bergéare entwined as lovers and business partners it doesn’t stop Saint Laurent starting a very intense drug-fuelled affair with model Jacques de Bauscherwho was also Karl Lagerfeld’s boyfriend at the time. It is only the intervention of Bergé that brings this relationship to a sudden close, but then one of his major roles seems to be to continually pulling Saint Laurent out of the deep holes he digs himself into.
In real life Berge had done his very best to stop this movie ever being made yet in fact he comes over as the considerate and rather sane savior of both Saint Laurent’s life and the business itself. One of the most touching scenes is where he is seen defending the independence of the YSL name with the new American owners who do not speak a word of French.
Comparisons between the two movies are inevitable and even though Bonello’s take on the story is far too long at 150 minutes and its chronology is hard to follow at times, it is by far the better film. Immensely more sexier too thanks to some spot on casting, particularly the remarkably talented Gaspard Ulliel as a eerily perfect match as Saint Laurent and a completely stunning performance from Louis Garrel as de Bauscher, and a very creditable turn from Jérémie Renier as Berge. The flashes forward into the future when Saint Laurent is an old man and portrayed rather awkwardly by Helmut Berger, are the one weak part that lets the side somewhat.
Then there are the clothes. Not just the masterpieces that Saint Laurent created and are lovingly re-produced here but also the rather magnificent outfits that the movie’s costume designer Anaïs Romand has decked the stars out in to. Bonello chooses to end his story with Saint Laurent’s triumphant Moroccan-inspired collection in 1976 which ended a creative dry-spell the designer had been going through, and which seemed a fitting way to recognize the genius of one of fashion’s giants.
P.S. The movie was France’s Official Submission to the Academy of Motion Pictures for a Best Foreign Movie Nomination, meanwhile Ms. Romand won a César Award (French Oscar) for work, plus M. Saint Laurent’s dog Moujik actually won a special Palm Award at the Cannes Film Festival for his painfully sad ‘dying’ scene. You will want to avert your eyes when that particular scene is on the screen.