Cinema Review – Yves Saint Laurent

A look at the life and career of designer Yves Saint-Laurent, a man seemingly consumed with doubt, as well as his passions.

There is little doubt that designer Yves Saint Laurent had an interesting life; this is the first of two movies to be made about the designer’s life. It is no mean feat for a 21 year old to take over one of the biggest fashion houses in the world – Christian Dior – but the tragedy that Saint Laurent suffered was to ultimately be his downfall.

The film is told like a story, like Saint Laurent’s long-term business partner Pierre Bergé (Guillaume Gallienne) is talking to Yves, the love of his life, in the aftermath of his death. Bergé is selling the art that he and Saint Laurent accumulated over their lives together, and is trying to explain why he is selling it off. That is all fine and good, but when the voiceover kicks in sporadically, it is often hard to remember who Bergé is talking to when he refers to someone as ‘You’.

The performances from Pierre Niney as Yves Saint Laurent and Guillaume Gallienne as Pierre Bergé are strong, and it is on their interactions that the film rests. The two actors balance one another out; one is gentle, troubled and almost neurotic, and the other is grounded and steady. Charlotte LeBon gives a steady performance as Victoire, Yves’s muse and Laura Smet is strong as Loulou, the cause of Yves’s eventual downfall.

Based on Laurence Benaïm’s book, the main trouble with the film is Jacques Fieschi, Marie-Pierre Huster and Jalil Lespert’s screenplay. Nothing is ever fully explained, such as the catalyst for Saint Laurent’s descent into drink and drugs, which leaves the audience bewildered and disengaged. Characters come and go, and locations change in the blink of an eye and the voiceover – which, presumably was designed to explain the film – only serves to confuse. Relationships begin and end too quickly, and ones that are long since dead are never given the chance to die.

As director Jalil Lespert has made a film that looks gorgeous and contains strong performances from the actors, but without context and understanding, the film turns from an engaging cautionary story about an influential designer destroyed by love and drugs, to the story of a man who started off with a nervous disposition before turning to drugs to numb the pain.

Yves Saint Laurent is the story of an influential designer whose career began at an incredibly early age. The film could easily have been an examination of the life of a high profile gay man in the 1950s, a cautionary tale of drugs and dangerous relationships, but instead, through some odd narrational choices and the fact that many things are never explained, the film ends up being a good looking orgy from which we never really get a feel for the man it is about.

Rating: 2/5

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