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Film Review – Yves Saint Laurent

3 min read

Lovers of fashion, French films or France, prepare yourselves for a cinematic experience that is sure to make you woozy. Yves Saint Laurent could possibly be the most fashionable film of the year. The film looks at the life of notorious French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent (Pierre Niney), from his early career as creative director at the house of Dior to to his success with the house of Yves Saint Laurent, a fashion house whose designs made him one of fashion’s highly regarded and a leading pioneer in the industry.

While the film at times can be a little historically inaccurate, for example the relationship between Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Burgé (Guillaume Gallienne) is depicted as having lasted a lifetime when in fact it ended romantically in 1976, even the historically fussy will be swept up in the decadence and hedonism the film portrays. The sweeping shots of Paris’ beautiful scenery, the stylish interiors of French parlour rooms, the exotic colours and fabrics of Marrakech, the trendy layouts of Paris and New York’s hottest clubs in the 60’s – decadent doesn’t even begin to describe Saint Laurent’s lifestyle, and as the film progresses the friends become more glamorous, the lifestyle more debaucherous and the fashion more exquisite.

Yves Saint Laurent

The fashion throughout the film is phenomenal. It’s as though pieces featured in years of haute couture magazines have jumped off the pages and onto the screen for us fashion lovers to go berserk over. Not only does the film deal with some of Yves Saint Laurent’s most iconic work – we’re talking genuine pieces from the YSL archives – it also travels from the late fifties to the early seventies, covering all the shift dresses, bandanas, knee-high boots, beehive hair-dos, large sunglasses and bohemian jewellery in between. There’s something for fashion lovers of all eras to enjoy. The hair, makeup and costume departments deserve a standing ovation as they’ve managed to recreate some of fashion’s greatest eras with precise detail and aesthetically pleasing results.

Outside of the fashion the film lacks depth, particularly in the beginning scenes which feel short and rushed. However it soon becomes evident that this is because there is so much content to cover, at least fifty years worth to be exact. It’s also difficult to empathise with the characters at times. In the end we side with Pierre, who despite his moments of infidelity, shines through as the man behind the genius. They say behind every great man there is a great woman, well in this case it’s another great man. Pierre’s contribution to the YSL house is in no way diminished in the film. The character of Yves Saint Laurent is difficult to grasp. At times he comes across as humble, bashful and shy, especially during interviews with the press, and this warms us towards the fashion mastermind. However, as Yves descends into drug and alcohol abuse he becomes cruel and ungrateful towards the people around him and this causes you to lose empathy for the character. This human approach by director Jalil Lespert, who makes the creative decision not to shy away from the flaws of his protagonist, is admirable and one of the strong points of the film.

It may not be the most groundbreaking film of our time but it’s an enjoyably hedonistic experience that is visually pleasing and very French. If you’re not into fashion then Yves Saint Laurent probably isn’t for you, but fashionistas around the world will doubtlessly love it.

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