France, 2010, 98 minutes, Colour.
Yves Saint- Laurent, Pierre Berge, Betty Catroux, Jack Lang, Catherine Deneuve, Laetitia Casta.
Directed by Pierre Thoretton.
All you may have wanted to know about designer and celebrity, Yves Saint Laurent – and more than you wanted or needed to know.
As a biography, this film offers some basic information about his origins, his family, his talent, his assisting Christian Dior, his early acclaim, his successful career and his long relationship with Pierre Berge.
As a portrait, the film is more complex. The commentary speaks of Saint Laurent as quiet and retiring, though he tended to overcome this in his public appearances and was, perhaps, something of a snob. The extent of his talent is shown, which will be of particular interest to audiences who follow fashion but may bewilder those not in the know, the perennial puzzle of who will actually wear the exotic creations that are displayed by those models parading on the catwalk and why they are so acclaimed.
Because Pierre Berge offers much of the commentary, there are touches of intimacy in his narration, an opening up of his first meeting with Saint Laurent, their attraction and partnership for forty years. There is also a great deal about the business side of the company and of Berge’s role.
Saint Laurent was hailed as a celebrity and feted in the media as well as by other celebrities. It later took some toll on him with a drinking problem and a reliance on drugs. However, in 1990 he made a clean break and remained this way until his death in 2008.
The film-makers have gone to the media, to archives for photos and movie and video clips. There are interviews with models, politicians, move stars...
One of the main preoccupations of the film, which may not be of such great interest to viewers who are not fascinated by collections of art of all kinds, is the long amassing of so many pieces of art, making their home something of a museum. Actually, the couple had a number of homes in Paris, Morocco and in Normandy. Many of the objects are shown in loving close-up. Throughout the film, there is a continuing appraisal of the worth of the art since there is a planned auction. The film culminates in the auction itself – with a surprising number of buyers offering hundreds of thousands and even millions for some of the pieces.
The title? Yves Saint Laurent’s love of his creative design? His relationship with Pierre Burge? The acquiring of and devotion to the art collection? All of the above?
1. Audience knowledge of Yves Saint-Laurent? Interest in him as a person, as a designer, his career, celebrity?
2. The film as documentary, on the life of Yves Saint- Laurent, on his career and success? On his relationship with Pierre Berge? His personal problems? Drinking and drugs? The film as a portrait rather than a biography?
3. The documentary material? The footage, the interviews? The home movies? Building up a picture of Yves Saint-Laurent? Of Pierre Berge?
4. The contribution of Pierre Berge to the film, his collaboration, his interviews, his commentary and memoirs? His relationship with Saint- Laurent? The forty years? His business partnership?
5. The framework of Yves Saint- Laurent’s death, the selling of all the art? The preparation for the auction? The detailed look at the various art pieces, the explanations of their background, the collection? The finale with the auction, the people at the auction, the bids, the range of material, the high prices? Berge and his satisfaction after the auction?
6. The person of Yves Saint- Laurent, the Morocco background, the French style, shy, introspective? His talent, working with Christian Dior? Dior’s death? Assistant to Christian Dior but building up a reputation, his success in design, making his own company? The success over the years, the displays? His holidays, Morocco, houses, collecting of art? The clashes with Berge? Drinking, drugs, 1990 and his becoming clean? His role as a celebrity – with a touch of the snob?
7. The interviews with Jack Lang, the politician’s background, culture? The range of personal friends, for and against? Celebrities like Laetitia Casta, the reception with Catherine Deneuve?
8. The world of fashion, the nature of design, the dresses and their extravagance? The shows, the catwalk, the models?
9. The world of art, collectors, value and auction?
10. The world of Yves Saint- Laurent – different from that of ordinary people? Audience fascination with the life of a celebrity?