★★★★ | Yves Saint Laurent

Yves St Laurent was regarded as the most consistently celebrated and influential designer for twenty-five years. He is credited with both spurring Haute Couture’s rise from its 1960’s ashes and with finally rendering Ready-to-Wear reputable. He was unquestionably a genius and it’s no exaggeration at all to state that some of his ‘creations’ were stunning masterpieces.

He was however, a very troubled and tormented soul. An aspect that this new biopic on M. St Laurent makes a point of labouring on. As a piece of fiction the story of how this timid gentle soul who, at the tender age of 21 took over from his mentor Christian Dior to head up the Couture House is totally compelling. The year is 1957 and his first Collection as Head Designer at Dior catapulted him to international stardom. A year later he met Pierre Bergé, an industrialist who became his lover, and later his business partner after Dior had sacked St Laurent. He and Bergé set up the House of Yves St Laurent together.

The movie focuses on how St Laurent, who had always been a manic depressive, became heavily dependent on alcohol and drugs just to cope with his daily pressures. As he sought solace (and sex) in the arms of other young men, his exploits landed him in police stations and on newspaper front pages, and he was always being rescued by Bergé who saved the day yet again. The couple spilt up romantically in 1976, a fact that is not mentioned in the movie, but remained business partners until St Laurent’s death from brain cancer in 2008.

It’s a real treat to see the scenes of St Laurent at work in his Salon watching him create unforgettable pieces that were greatly influenced by his love of non-European culture. Also some of the scenes of almost debauchery when he is out partying with close friends like Karl Lagerfeld and Loulou de la Falaise when he looks like he is actually enjoying himself for a change. However fact and fiction start to really cross wires, and whilst we are expected to believed that this was a man who refused to take responsibility for anything, it’s nigh on impossible to believe that Bergé was such a saintly figure who never ever even dreamed about sleeping around or sniffing a line of coke or anything remotely bad.

The movie based on Laurence Benaim’s biography was made with with Bergé’s ‘approval’ who has always had a reputation as a control freak and in the same way he micro-managed YSL, he has obviously totally manipulated the way that both he and St Laurent are portrayed in this movie. It’s such a pity as I believe that the real truth of this remarkable and tempestuous relationship is a great story still waiting to be told.

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Maybe it will be in Bertrand Bonello’s new movie ‘Saint Laurent’ currently being made now without Berge’s approval.

Fact or fiction, there were still two incredible performances from the lead actors Guillaume Gallienne as Bergé, and Pierre Niney who was completely pitch perfect as the vulnerable St. Laurent.

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There was one remarkable touching scene when St Laurent arrives home, the worse for wear after an all night bender and has collapsed in the bathroom. As Bergé helps him, St Laurent tearfully confesses that he loves his new boyfriend Jacques, but that Berge will always be the love of his life. And you really want to believe that this indeed really was the case.

Available to buy / view on: Amazon | Amazon Prime | iTunes

About the author: Roger Walker-Dack
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