Film: L’amour fou


Cast includes: Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Bergé, Betty Catroux, Catherine Deneuve, Laetitia Casta
Director: Pierre Thoretton
Genre: Documentary (2010) French with subtitles

In brief: The film opens with a halting and awkward speech Yves Saint Laurent gives in 2002 to announce his retirement and follows with scenes from his funeral in 2008. YSL was such a huge fashion icon that his life may seem like a contradiction to the success of his fashion legacy. His struggle with drugs and alcohol were well known, but in the fashion industry, that would hardly set him apart. He never concealed details of his life from the public, but if it weren’t for his partner of 50 years, Pierre Bergé, we may not have ever known him. To be sure, Saint Laurent was a major talent, but his shy, fragile temperament was not well suited to being in the public eye or to the the business of running a fashion house.

In 2009, Christie’s auctioned over 700 items from the collection of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé. As Bergé goes through their homes and organizes the auction, he tells us stories in flashbacks… in no particular order, much the same way the collection was acquired. At age 18, Saint Laurent was hired by the House of Dior and gradually had more of his designs accepted into the collections. At age 21, he became the successor to Christian Dior and was credited with saving the financially vulnerable fashion house. Not long after that, he was drafted into the French Army during the Algerian War of Independence. He lasted just 20 days before being overcome by stress and being hospitalized… and soon after, Dior fired him. Although Saint Laurent wanted his job back, Bergé convinced him that this was his opportunity to open his own fashion house. Unable to get French backers, Bergé found an American backer. Unable to afford a location in the up-scale fashion district, YSL opened its doors in a less expensive area of Paris. 1n 1965, when YSL did the famous Mondrian collection, it was inconceivable that Saint Laurent and Bergé would ever be able to afford an actual Mondrian painting. But that soon changed, and their personal collection became known not only for its value, but also for the aesthetics of their choices.

Bergé doesn’t believe in souls… “either mine or in objects.” He wanted the pieces to go to new homes. Bergé selected things from their three homes… Paris, Morocco and Normandy… for the auction, and while he goes through things, we get a chance to see these spectacular homes. But as we learn more about Saint Laurent, we can’t help but feel sorry for the talented but chronically depressed man behind the legend. Bergé tells us that by the end Saint Laurent was only happy two days a year… when the collections were completed. As for the sale, some ask if Yves would have wanted this sale. For Bergé the answer is easy… “No.”


popcorn rating

3 popped kernels

Insights into a troubled and talented genius… amazing fashion, artwork and homes

Popcorn Profile

Primary Audience: Grown-ups
Gender Appeal: Any audience
Distribution: Art house 
Mood: Somber
Tempo: In no hurry
Visual Style: Nicely varnished realism  
Character Development: Not that kind of film 
Language: True to life 
Social Significance: Informative

 

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