Saint Laurent at the French Film Festival
Currently screening at the Alliance Française French Film Festival, ‘Saint Laurent’ paints a complex portrait of Algerian-born French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. The film reveals a darker side of the glamorous world he inhabited…
Directed by Bertrand Bonello, this lavish production was France’s entry into the 2015 Academy Awards and competed for the Palme d’Or at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. As the second biopic made about the designer in recent times, ‘Saint Laurent’ did not receive approval from Pierre Bergé and the Yves Saint Laurent Foundation like its predecessor ‘Yves Saint Laurent’. However, it succeeds in capturing the essence of the era and the legendary talent of the man himself.
The story of Yves Saint Laurent
The film focuses on Saint Laurent during the height of his career in the 60s and 70s, and places his clothing in a historical context by presenting the ways his designs reflected world events. The story highlights his talent for interpreting his surroundings with an artistic eye, but also how greatly this talent affected him personally.
Despite his skills, successes and good looks, Saint Laurent was deeply troubled, which hindered his life and damaged his relationships. Behind the stylish façade of his fashion house, the designer maintained a decadent lifestyle that was dominated by self-destruction, drugs and alcohol. While his friends, lovers and employees adored and supported him, ultimately Saint Laurent remained a lonely figure who, according to this biopic, was tortured by his insecurities.
Gaspard Ulliel leads the cast with his nuanced portrayal of Saint Laurent. Ulliel, who won a Lumière Award for his performance, expresses the weight of his character’s emotions with his facial expressions and body language. At times brittle and guarded, and at others soft and childlike, he embodies the designer’s fragility.
Jérémie Renier gives a soulful performance as Pierre Bergé, his long-standing partner and confidant. Louis Garrel is perfectly cast as Jacques De Bascher, the model with whom Saint Laurent was passionately in love. Playing his muses, Léa Seydoux exudes charisma and wisdom as Loulou de la Falaise, and Aymeline Valade is the epitome of cool charm as Betty Catroux.
Every detail of the film is brimming with style, from the costumes and the set design to the cinematography and artful direction. Anaïs Romand won a César Award for best costume design and the clothing is magnificent – beautifully tailored, brave and sensual. Saint Laurent’s signature black-framed glasses and bright-patterned shirts, his iconic le smoking and de la Falaises’s silk turbans and bohemian ensembles accurately portray the era’s fashions.
Expect glimpses of Parisian interiors with decorative wallpaper, animal skins and gilt mirrors; glitzy nightclubs and elegant garment workrooms. With moody lighting and a score including Maria Callas, the film establishes an intense atmosphere that invites audiences into the luxury Saint Laurent created, together with the darkness of his behaviour behind closed doors.
‘Saint Laurent’ has been painstakingly composed to depict the layered life of one of France’s most celebrated fashion designers. Audiences are likely to come away with the impression that Saint Laurent’s successes are all the more remarkable because of the turmoil he endured in order to accomplish them.
In one moving moment during the film, Saint Laurent says: “Sometimes I close my eyes and see clothes gliding and floating. Just shapes and colours. But when I open my eyes, I only see heavy, dark things.”
Don’t forget to head to the Alliance Française French Film Festival official website to find out when your favourites are showing and to book tickets online.
Have you seen ‘Saint Laurent’? What did you think of it? Share with us your thoughts below!
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