Saint Laurent

Last summer I saw Jalil Lespert’s Yves Saint Laurent (review here, the first biopic about the fashion legend. It was a much more conventional biopic than Bertrand Bonello’s Saint Laurent. Bonello covers the designer’s life between 1967 and 1976, his most troubled period of drug addiction and his sexual relationship with gigolo Jacques de Bascher, and then flash forwards to 1989. The film is meant to be an impressionistic re-invention of Saint Laurent’s life and art. Some of the events we see are real or not. Artistically, Bonello’s film is a success. Saint Laurent is cold and clinical. The director has said “We wanted to show what it cost him every day to be who he was…”. Rather than being about specific events, Saint Laurent’s life is shown to have been a series of parties, of nights at the disco and orgies. We understand that to be able to create, Saint Laurent had to have an extreme and complex life of drugs, love and sex. Long scenes of Saint Laurent partying, dancing and drinking with his friends perfectly define his most productive era. Bonello’s occasional use of split screens is exciting and energizing. Bonello’s three main actors cannot really be compared to the acting in Lespert’s film. Pierre Niney and Guillaume Gallienne from Yves Saint Laurent had to recreate what happened in Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé’s lives. Of note, Yves Saint Laurent’s problem with mental illness in his twenties, so well-played by Niney that he won the César. Instead, in Bonello’s Saint Laurent, there is a trio of actors. Gaspard Ulliel as Yves Saint Laurent, Jérémie Renier as Bergé and Louis Garrel as de Bascher. We don’t need much than a few brushstrokes from those actors to understand who they are playing. I salute their artistic integrity. I also must mention the overall excellence of the production, particularly Anaïs Romand’s costume design. Saint Laurent is too long. In the latter part, it switches back and forth between 1976 and 1989, with Helmut Berger playing an older Saint Laurent. It has become by this point this point totally uninteresting. Oh well! Nothing is perfect.

You should know… There was a documentary in 2010. Pierre Thoretton’s Yves Saint Laurent – Pierre Bergé, l’amour fou was of course about the relationship between the two men, but for the most part it was about their personal art collection, and the 2009 auction held at Christie’s. Over a three-day sale in Paris, 733 items were sold for a record-breaking 370 million euros (520 million Canadian dollars), with the proceeds proposed for the creation of a new foundation for AIDS research. In the documentary Thoretton interviews Pierre Bergé and has footage from the auction.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Saint Laurent

Directed by:
Bertrand Bonello
Screenplay by:
Thomas Bidegain
Bertrand Bonello
Gaspard Ulliel
Jérémie Renier
Louis Garrel
Léa Seydoux
Amira Casar
Helmut Berger
150 min.
In French and
English with
English subtittles

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