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Saint Laurent, biographical film, biography, review, biopic

Saint Laurent (2014) 

Five years after fashion designer Coco Chanel was the subject of two competing biopics, her confrère Yves Saint Laurent was afforded the same treatment. However, unlike the first version to hit the cinema screens, this biopic was made without the support of Pierre Bergé, a fact which soon becomes apparent. After an extensive behind the scenes sequence at the couturier’s fashion house, Saint Laurent seems to pass comment on the title character's work by juxtaposing his collections with contemporary newsreels before occupying the remainder of its duration with the fashion designer’s decline.

Spending as much time in Paris’s nightclubs as his fashion house, Yves Saint Laurent spies Betty Catroux at a discotheque and woos her away from Chanel to become the ideal model for his iconic ‘Le Smoking’ range of tuxedo suits. A later long-winded encounter on the dancefloor is not as rewarding, resulting in a torrid affair that jeopardizes the YSL brand. Exposed to drug-fueled orgies and cruising the backstreets of Paris, Saint Laurent’s abilities are diminished both artistically and physically. Remarking that he is sick of seeing himself, the biopic takes its cue and flashes forward to a much older Saint Laurent living alone with the fourth incarnation of his pet dog, Moujik.

Unsurprisingly, the context of Saint Laurent is not too dissimilar from its authorized predecessor. Where the two films do significantly differ is in their depiction of his sexuality. While there was a refreshingly relaxed attitude and romanticism exhibited in Yves Saint Laurent, this version (for want of a better phase) wants to ram it down your throat, featuring full frontal nudity, stirrup chairs and graphic descriptions of sexual acts.

Elsewhere, as in the aforementioned opening scene and the introduction of Jacques de Bascher, Saint Laurent is littered with a series of interminable sequences that linger on the minutiae until they become mundane. They are emblematic of a film that makes for fine window dressing before the material wears out.

Gaspard Ulliel, Yves Saint Laurent, Helmut Berger, Léa Seydoux, Loulou de la Falaise
Aymeline Valade, Betty Catroux

Only reference to Saint Laurent’s cinematic work is creating costumes for Catherine Deneuve for her upcoming films with François Truffaut and Alain Cavalier.

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