Yves Saint Laurent probably defined a generation at the height of his career. He was a living legend, a man sought after for designer clothing, shoes, and the like. But what was his personal life like? What moved him, what inspired him, and what was he like? Director Bertrand Bonello attempts to answers these questions in the very stylish and abstract Saint Laurent. Its unique take on Laurent’s life during the years of 1967-1976 is a mixture of slow-moving story and a brave look at the life of a haunted man, but not necessarily one that will set off any kind of emotional response.
Saint Laurent (Gaspard Ulliel) is in the prime of his career. He’s in the midst of being fashion forward. People want to work with him and he himself is wrapped up in his work that we aren’t given a look into the outside world. As superficial as the fashion industry is criticized to be, Bonello uses this to his advantage. It’s almost as though we are watching Laurent through a box, a specimen going about his life, but limited to the walls he has put up around himself and the people who fuel the fire from the outside. Laurent’s manager and partner Pierre (Jérémie Renier) is in charge of everything having to do with Laurent’s product, including oftentimes Laurent himself.
Laurent is captivated by beauty and fashion, but is even more entranced by the outside world when he meets Jacques (Louis Garrel), a man Laurent is quick to fall in love with. Jacques is completely outside the realm of Laurent’s lifestyle and work. Their relationship is filled with lust, drugs, and the addiction to being away from life mentally. And as Laurent’s story progresses, we are forced to ponder the side effects of living with being one of the most significant fashion designers in his day.
Saint Laurent is not an easy film to sit through. It requires a lot of patience, effort, and time. It can be described like an article of clothing that one can admire from a window, but never want to wear because it ultimately won’t fit right. The film has its highlights, an intimate character study of Laurent, if nothing else. But it oftentimes grows very tedious as we, like Laurent, feel like we’re going through the motions. And at 150 minutes, it’s not hard to understand why.
Bonello most definitely set out to create a parallel between the personality and essence of the fashion world and mirror it to Laurent’s life during the late ‘60s into the mid-‘70s. Its abstract style is unique, something memorable to take away from the film, but its storytelling is too slowly paced and while we get a lot of Laurent, we never really get to know Laurent as much as we should. A great abstract film, but one that ultimately fails to hit an emotional nerve.
Release Date: May 15, 2015 | Director: Bertrand Bonello | Screenwriters: Thomas Bidegain, Bertrand Bonello | Cast: Gaspard Ulliel, Jérémie Renier, Louis Garrel, Léa Seydoux, Aymeline Valade, Amira Casar | Genre: Drama | MPAA Rating: R for graphic nudity/strong sexual situations, substance abuse throughout, and some language