"Yves Saint Laurent" (2014 release from France; 105 min.) brings the story of one of the biggest names ever in the fashion design industry, YSL. As the movie opens, we are in 1957, where we see young Yves with his family in Oran, Algeria (not long before the revolutionary war breaks out). During the opening titles, we jump to today, where YSL's partner explains why he is selling all of the art they had collected over the last 4+ decades. We then jump back to the late 50s, and it's not long before the crazily-talented YSL is off to Paris, where he works under that other monument of the French fashion industry, Christian Dior. When Dior unexpectedly passes away, YSL becomes the head designer (he was barely 22!). Meanwhile. we also get to know the personal life of YSL. To tell you more would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: first, there are dueling biopics on YSL currently out there. Besides this movie, there is also the similarly titled "Saint Laurent", also from France, so be careful to be sure that you don't mistakenly confuse one with the other. Second, this movie tries to give us both a look at YSL's professional life and his personal life, but in the end really doesn't do either one justice. It all seems very hurried (the movie covers 1957 through 1976), and as a result the movie lacks depth and drama. That is really a shame as there are some good moments in it. One of those is when YSL is under observation at a military hospital, and YSL's partner tells him: "Do you want to live or do you want to die?" Another good moment comes much later when the same partner observes "You are happy only twice a year: in Spring and in Fall, when the collections come out". I wish there were more such key observations. The two lead actors, Pierre Niney as YSL and Guillaume Gallienne as his partner, give their all in performances covering 2 decades, and it's certainly not their fault that the movie, while promising at times, ultimately falls short. Last but not least, tip o' the old hat to the production design of the movie, with the immaculate reproductions of Paris in the 60s and 70s (check out the old cars!).
"Yves Saint Laurent" opened without any pre-release hype or advertising this past weekend at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati. I figure it wouldn't be playing long so I saw it a few days ago (I was right, as it's already disappearing after only 1 week). The early evening screening I saw this at was not particularly well attended, I read that the other YSL biopic I mentioned earlier is supposed to open in the US in September or October. I'll probably check that out, just to see how different it is from this one. Meanwhile, well-intended as it is but flawed, I still might suggest you check out "Yves Saint Laurent" when it is released on DVD/Blu-ray. If on the other hand you are a fashion aficionado, then this movie is a must-see!
This sumptuously produced French biopic follows the triumphs and tribulations of one of the 20th century's most iconic figures. It picks up the story with the arrival of young Yves as the "boy wonder" of haute couture in 1950s Paris. It then leads on into the downward spiral of dissolute behaviour and depression, fuelled by drugs and alcohol, which characterised his later years. The film is anchored by two fine central performances. Pierre Niney really looks the part in the title role, and Guillaume Gallienne is excellent as his longtime business partner and lover. The problem is that the script allows for an ample demonstration of the subject's tendency towards self-destructive behaviour, but precious little insight into what drives him to it. Without this insight, the story becomes repetitive, and just a bit tedious. It's a beautiful film to look at, but at heart it's cold and shallow, and at its conclusion, its subject remains as inscrutable and enigmatic to us as at its beginning.