by Liana Vardi
The Man Who Loved Woman
Two French biopics of the genius designer and enfant-terrible, Yves Saint Laurent, came out in 2014, six months apart The first, Yves Saint Laurent, directed by Jalil Lespert and starring Pierre Niney and Guillaume Gallienne, was approved by Pierre Bergé, Saint Laurent’s partner, and spends more time on the relationship between the two men. Bertrand Bonello, who did not receive the same endorsement, offers a raunchier version, where Saint Laurent’s relationship with Karl Lagerfeld protégé, Jacques de Bascher, is central to the story. Pierre Bergé, played by Jérémie Renier, is a more discreet presence, representing the business side of the Saint Laurent house. While Saint Laurent is out partying, he stays home and tends to their art collection. As in the other film, Bergé sees himself as Saint Laurent’s protector, ready to intervene when things get out of hand, but also immensely burdened by Saint Laurent’s petulence and self-destructive impulses. In the role of Saint Laurent, Gaspard Ulliel does as uncanny a job of channeling the designer as Pierre Niney in Yves Saint Laurent (for which he received the best actor award at this year’s Césars, the French equivalent of the Oscars).
The difference then lies in the details. Saint Laurent focuses on the decade 1966-1976, a period when Saint Laurent’s creativity lagged at times. The pressure of coming up with new collections, costume design for films, wardrobe for singers and actresses, sapped Saint Laurent’s energy, leading him to brood and turn to drugs and debauchery. And yet he never ceases working. We are given greater insight into the actual production of a collection, Saint Laurent’s interactions with his assistants, the ruthless regimen that he imposes on his dressmakers, and his unerring eye for detail. Despite its melancholy tone, emphasized by the flash-forward to an elderly Saint Laurent interpreted by Helmut Berger, the film ends on a high note with the outstanding winter 1976 “Russian” collection. Yves Saint Laurent is better at depicting Saint Laurent’s private life, while Saint Laurent does a better job of explaining haute couture and hinting at what made Saint Laurent’s designs so appealing to women.
Watch the trailer for Saint-Laurent
Issue Navigation> Issue Index > v14n22 (Summer Guide, Week of Thursday, June 4) > Film Reviews > Saint Laurent
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