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Yves Saint Laurent, biographical film, biography, review, biopic

Yves Saint Laurent (2014) 

The first of two biopics of the fashion designer released within months of each other, Yves Saint Laurent is the one that received approval from its subject’s former romantic and business partner, Pierre Bergé. His support for the project is impactful, for better AND worse. The Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent loaned the production 77 vintage outfits from its archives, allowing the biopic to gloriously showcase the designer’s creations.  Yet the film also spends a significant amount of time championing the role Bergé played in building the fashion empire, as well as assigning the character the task of providing the film’s banal narration.

After a brief introductory sequence establishing Saint Laurent’s familial ties and connections with North Africa, the film flashes forward more that fifty years to an auction of his possessions. As Bergé surveys the collection ala Citizen Kane, he reminisces about the life of his lover. Flashback to 1957, where the young fashion designer is apprenticing under Christian Dior. Designated as his heir apparent, Saint Laurent assumes the position of head designer at the age of 21 after Dior’s unexpected death. Though equipped to handle the creative aspects of the role, Saint Laurent is ill-prepared for the other demands placed upon him. Enter Pierre Bergé.

Featuring multiple fashion shows, a jazzy soundtrack and low, swirling cameras capturing beautiful young people running through the streets of Paris, Yves Saint Laurent can at times resemble a glossy advertisement for the fashion house rather than a feature film. Yet it affords the biopic a platform to magnificently present the work of its eponymous couturier in a manner that's rarely been equalled. Where the film does come undone is employing a narration that carries all the gravitas of a fashion brochure’s accompanying text.


Away from the catwalk, Yves Saint Laurent does superficially address the designer’s demons, but does so in a manner that focuses on how they impact Bergé. It’s instructive that it is he who appears in the last image of the film, leading one to ask, “whose life is it anyway?”

Pierre Niney, Yves Saint Laurent, Laura Smet, Loulou de la Falaise, Marie de Villepin
Christian Dior, Andy Warhol, Zizi Jeanmaire, Jeanloup Sieff, Roger Thérond

No reference is made to Saint Laurent's contribution to film.

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