On rare occasions a movie can say more about a time and place by just displaying that world rather than dissecting or discussing it, and the lavish biopic Yves Saint Laurent seemingly unintentionally, does just that. Nearly as analytically mute as the both heralded and scandalous French clothing designer in question who died in 2008, the film nevertheless has much to intimate about its historical moment, whether by design so to speak, or not.
The narrative is told from the memory lane memoir point of view of Laurent’s surviving longtime lover, partner and business benefactor Pierre Berge (Guillaume Gallienne), without whom the mentally unstable couturier (Pierre Niney)
may have never achieved such fame. And as a deeply ambivalent portrait at its core, Laurent is portrayed as an eccentric bipolar workaholic recluse oddly fixated on the limelight in determined absentia, but eventually addicted to party hard recreational drugs and promiscuous gay sex in equal measure. And in stark contrast to the celibate infatuation with his models – or ‘mademoiselles’ – professionally self-effacing in dress and demeanor.
Emotionally fragile and creatively obsessive, and fueled by an insolent imagination yet hungry for appreciation, Laurent is a figure in this tensely crafted portrait who is beset with a web of self-destructive contradictions. And mirroring by contrast, the unfortunately unexplored yet intimated destructive marriage of art and commerce in modern times. And in that sense a metaphor of meaning residing in those living works of dazzling when not defiant art that were his creations – his mute mannequin-esque models of choice that serve as physically imposing decorative scenery throughout, but rarely say a thing.
Likewise left unspoken, is Laurent as gay, yet more obsessed with women than anything else – as mystifying, subliminal and perhaps envied objects of adoration and creation, but objects in all regards nevertheless. And like the dark side of the fashion world and the dehumanization of the women there serving as compliant, nourishment-deprived dressup dolls and playthings, a subject bereft of explanation or comprehension.
Yves Saint Laurent The Movie: A Man And His ‘Man’equins.