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Review: Saint Laurent

Directed by Bertrand Bonello
Starring Gaspard Ulliel, Jérémie Renier, Louis Garrel, Léa Seydoux, Aymeline Valade, Helmut Berger
Run time: 150 minutes
Rating: MA15+
French with English subtitles

In a swirl of colour, with sketchbooks scattered across his desk and dressed impeccably

in a crisply ironed shirt, fashion giant Yves Saint Laurent sits quietly in his office in Paris, quietly sketching as the first scenes of the 2014 French biography drama, Saint Laurent, unfurl loudly around him. Saint Laurent follows the journey of Yves Saint Laurent, played by Gaspard Ulliel, focusing on Saint Laurent’s life from 1967 until 1976, the peak of the designer’s career.

The world of Yves Saint Laurent is beautiful; the rich colours in the film are neatly and delicately reflected in the fabrics of the items he so stringently orchestrates and the opulent decorations of his lavish home and trips abroad. Life often imitates art, and in keeping with this motif the film allows the chaos of the fashion world Yves has constructed to erupt and explode around him like a supernova, contrasting harshly – almost violently – against the calm, tranquil environment of his home life and his studio space. Director Bertrand Bonello has cleverly integrated juxtaposing film frames which often play out two completely opposing segments of film, for example a nightclub scene full of sound and light, tucked neatly next to images of Yves, dressed in his traditional white lab coat, sketching designs with a deft hand or directing a runway showcase of his latest designs.

 I found that the film played out much like an evening spent in a dim nightclub; at first the colours and the sounds are beguiling and entrancing. The music is fabulous, and the people are all beautifully dressed with androgynous faces. But there is always a darkness that seems to settle at the edges of the room, and it is this same darkness that seems to plague Yves through much of his personal life. By the end of the film, I felt as though I had been feasting on a rich array of textures and sights that left a slightly sour taste in my mouth. The troubles of drug addiction, relationship issues and the black dog of creative despair injects a stream of poignancy to this visually pleasing and sensual film, and while Yves surrounded himself with all the beauty he could muster, even in his own words, “If I could quit it, I would. I just can’t.”

– Made Stuchbery

Saint Laurent is screening as part of the Alliance Française French Film Festival until March 22.


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