The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

The bittersweet saga of Yves Saint Laurent

with 10 comments

In case you’ve been wondering: I’m not an Yves Saint Laurent type of person.

As a matter of fact it’s a smaller miracle I even can pronounce the name.

Don’t ask me what defines the Yves Saint Laurent look, because I have absolutely no idea. And until the other night I couldn’t even tell if there was a guy wearing this name for real or if it all was just an elaborated gimmick by someone who wanted to sound French. For all I knew it could be as American as Häägen-Dazs. Just an image to improve the sales.

You see, fashion just isn’t my cup of tea. I don’t care. I dress in the same kind of clothes I’ve had for the last 25 years – pretty comfortable, uncomplicated and mostly in black.

The only expensive garments I own are jackets – chosen not for their looks, but for their ability to keep me dry and warm when I’m hiking. I’m prepared to pay pretty silly sums for those. But if you try to convince me to lay a fortune on a dress of a certain high status label, I’ll laugh you in your face. I can’t see the point of them, apart from giving insanely wealthy people something to spend their money on.

Two well dressed men
Considering this it seems like a bit of a joke that I decided to watch a French documentary about Yves Saint Laurent named L’amour Fou.

It wasn’t a film  I had heard of and looked up. It tossed itself at me as I was poking around in the DVD shelf at my library. I had no idea of what it was. But there was something about the picture of the two well dressed men on the cover that pulled my attention.

One looked as if he was high on something. The other one looked like if he was some kind of guardian. Who were those people? What was the story of their lives?

After watching it I can’t truthfully say that I know everything there is to know about Yves Saint Laurent (who exists for real, he’s the guy who looks as if he’s on drugs – possibly because he WAS on drugs) or his life- and business partner Pierre Bergé, who is the other main character in the film and the main source of information since it was made after the death of YSL in 2008.

But you can’t really expect a one and a half hour long film to capture the essence of an entire life, especially not someone leading a life as colorful and rich as Saint Laurent did.

Beautiful and touching
From one point of view I suppose you can say that the film’s focus is superficial.

There are images of places this couple has been to, of the houses they’ve lived in and the items they’ve filled their home with. (Yves Saint Laurent was a vivid collector of art and we get to see how those are put up for an auction sale) We also get to see a huge amount of footage from the entire career of Saint Laurent, from the moment when he was introduced as the successor of the fashion designer Christian Dior at the age of 21 (he looks incredibly shy and geeky and vulnerable on those pictures) to the moment when he took a touching farewell to his professional life.  In between there are countless of images of models wearing his creations.

I’m afraid this probably sounds completely boring and shallow, but it isn’t. The beauty keeps it from getting dull. I think anyone who is the slightest interested in photography will enjoy it.

And while Pierre Bergé is quite restrained in the interviews, there’s a lot of information coming through between the lines. It could easily have become as empty as a picture in the memorial section of the Oscar ceremony. But it’s more than that. It’s not just a polite and polished portray of a respected, not to say revered celebrity. It’s a film about real persons who had real lives and real issues.

There is something about the dynamics between those two men that reminds me of the relationship between Stuart and Vince in the British TV series Queer as Folk, if you’ve seen it.  There’s this one guy who is leading this sex, drugs and clubbing life and the other guy who is sweet and nice and puts up with almost any crap from the charismatic love interest. Different as they are, they also need each other. It’s beautiful but sad and it can’t have been easy to be close to Saint Laurent.

Fiction movie next?
This is the third documentary that has been made about YSL. I’m not surprised. You can spend a long time talking about his life and his work. I’m more surprised that no one has made a fiction movie based on his life yet as far as I know of.

I’m still not an Yves Saint Laurent person. But from now on I’ll forever recognize the Mondrian dress. I actually wouldn’t mind wearing one myself.

L’amour Fou (Pierre Thoretton, FR 2010) My rating : 4/5

Written by Jessica

March 22, 2012 at 1:12 am

10 Responses

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  1. Now we’re expecting a whole different Jessica next Saturday 😉

    Sofia

    March 22, 2012 at 6:10 am

    • Absolutely. If someone sends me a Mondrian dress, I promise to wear it.

      Jessica

      March 22, 2012 at 7:42 am

  2. Sounds far more interesting than Coco before Chanel! Would love to see a big-screen ‘dramatisation’ of THIS story instead.

    Paragraph Film Reviews

    March 22, 2012 at 9:24 am

    • Yes, there’s lots and lots of stuff for a movie I think. You just need to pick an angle. The 21 year old who was appointed to take over from the designer giant, was sacked and started his own place… The love story. The depressed genious. The jetset life. I can absolutely see a movie coming.

      Jessica

      March 22, 2012 at 9:45 am

  3. This would definitely be one for my wife. She is a Fashion Gradute 9many moons ago) but she loves this type of thing/!

    • Again: I’m NOT into fashion but I still found it quite capturing. Loads and loads of great pictures so if you’re remotely into photography you should watch it too. Also: it’s an interesting person. So throw a glance at it while she’s watching.

      Jessica

      March 22, 2012 at 2:14 pm

  4. I love this film as well and got to watch it thanks to my local library as well.
    P.S. I want to say no commercial film can “capture the essence of an entire life”, they can only best aim for giving us an idea or an impression of someone’s life. To intrigue us enough to hope/wish we had the opportunity to know the man/woman in real life.

    kempton

    March 26, 2012 at 10:07 am

    • Yay! Finally someone more who has watched this film. Libraries are the best for taking you to places you didn’t know you’d go to.

      Jessica

      March 26, 2012 at 10:23 am

      • Really, just me so far? Well, it is a new Mar 22 post, give it time. More people should see this great film. I love the way how the art collection is used to tie things together. It is so symbolical and true that the film ends with his life- and business partner Pierre Bergé organizing an auction to sell off their art collection. Like Bergé mentioned, if it was left to YSL, these arts may not get to as good a home (assuming we can use the prices of the arts to judge their new collectors’ fit to hold them). And we likely won’t get a good show.
        P.S. Knowing you are NOT a lady in love of fashion. Let me mention I have this DVD coming from my library soon, http://zeitgeistfilms.com/billcunninghamnewyork/ 🙂

        kempton

        March 26, 2012 at 5:13 pm

        • Oh, I’ve heard of that one. I’d definitely like to see it. I’ll bug my library to get it.

          Jessica

          March 26, 2012 at 7:10 pm


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