Saint Laurent


Reviewed by: Richard Mowe

Gaspard Ulliel as Yves Saint Laurent: "eases under his skin with sensitivity."
"In Gaspard Ulliel, Bonello has found an actor who not only looks the part but eases under Saint Laurent's skin with sensitivity."

It is always awkward when two films on the same subject come along in the space of a few months but Bertrand Bonello’s version, Saint Laurent, manages to avoid the clichés and traditional form of a biopic and seems to have more liberty of expression than Jalil Lespert’s “approved” version of the life of the iconic fashion designer.

Bonello concentrates on one of Yves Saint Laurent’s most fertile periods, between 1966 and 1976, although we do glimpse him as a rather solitary old man having his hair tinted to the same hue as rocker Johnny Halliday.

Without any official YSL access, all the costumes and decor had to be recreated, an impressive feat, none more so than in the Ballets Russes collection of 1976, considered by many to be his most influential.

In Gaspard Ulliel, Bonello has found an actor who not only looks the part but eases under Saint Laurent's skin with sensitivity while also nailing the fragility in his voice, his lean physicality and his inherent shyness. Veteran actor Helmut Berger brings added power to Saint Laurent as an old man but the voice remains Ulliel’s.

The film concentrates less on the designer’s relationship with his long-time lover and business partner Pierre Bergé (played with compassion by Jeremie Renier) but points up his string of soulless sexual encounters and his passionate affair with the Parisian “It” designer Jacques de Bascher (played with a certain smouldering intensity by Louis Garrel).

Bonello (last in Cannes Competition with House Of Tolerance) excels in creating the atmosphere and mechanics of what it is like to work in the meticulous confines of a couture workshop presided over by Amira Casar as Anne-Marie Munoz (the legendary head of the YSL studio). The attention to detail in the design process gives the film its firm foundations.

Five years ago, Coco Chanel was also the subject of competing treatments. In this race, Bonello’s film leads the field by a clear margin.

Reviewed on: 17 May 2014
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Biopic of Yves Saint Laurent.

Director: Bertrand Bonello

Writer: Thomas Bidegain, Bertrand Bonello

Starring: Gaspard Ulliel, Jérémie Renier, Helmut Berger, Louis Garrel, Léa Seydoux

Year: 2014

Runtime: 135 minutes

Country: France

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