Within these past few years, there have been more than one film based on Yves Saint Laurent. After the death of this iconic French fashion designer, filmmakers have taken the opportunity to retell and portray the designer’s life behind the world-renowned brand, YSL. This film, Saint Laurent, based on Yves Saint Laurent`s life is directed by Bertrand Bonello, who is notorious for complex and outside the box themes (i.e. House of Tolerance (2011)). I imagine this film will constantly be compared to Yves Saint Laurent, directed by Jalil Lespert, which was also released last year in France.
The plot was based on Laurent`s life from the late ‘60s to the late ‘70s. This is the time frame when Laurent reached the pinnacle of his career. The film introduces the key figures of the designer’s life and career. The director puts in a lot of effort in portraying the key relationships in Yves’ life. His romantic relationship with Pierre Bergé, who was also his business partner, is brought into light. Saint Laurent’s affair with Jacques de Bascher is also depicted with detail.
To be blunt, I did not enjoy this film. If anything, I lost a portion of my admiration for the designer as the film came to an end. While it’s not a secret that Laurent`s life was deeply intertwined with drugs and affairs, the film takes a dramatic approach in exposing the designer’s private life. As an audience I felt as if there was nothing left of the film other than drugs. I lost a tad bit of admiration for the designer because the film gave me a sense that the designer was controlled by the effects of drugs and had no interest in stopping it. Maybe the main message from the director was to illustrate how Laurent became barricaded into his own world after becoming dependant on drugs, but this film hardly acknowledged how incredibly gifted Laurent was in designing. Isn’t that why we really adore Yves Saint Laurent?
This film is definitely not catered to a general audience; I imagine a portion of YSL fans would feel quite lost or negative about this film, seeing how the director illustrated the designer’s life into one chaotic ball. While I did not like the film, I do see this production as a piece of art. I enjoyed the film score and the very detailed mise-en-scène. The film was visually appealing and the background music was of great assistance in delivering emotions. Bonello also uses a variety of symbolism to represent many happenings and thoughts of Laurent as a character.
In short, the film was well planned. However, the plot and storyline could have been improved and more organized. To the audience who is more interested in a less dramatic version of the Laurent’s life and the history leading up to the designer’s success, I recommend a documentary version of Laurent’s life, L’amour fou (2010) directed by Pierre Thoretton, which contains more factual information on the designer.
Saint Laurent opens May 22nd in Vancouver.