Movie review: Saint Laurent, a biopic of the French designer, is a visual feast of excess and fashion | Arts
Arts
INDY Week's arts blog

Archives | RSS | Follow on

Friday, July 3, 2015

Movie review: Saint Laurent, a biopic of the French designer, is a visual feast of excess and fashion

Posted by on Fri, Jul 3, 2015 at 1:20 PM

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF SONY PICTURES CLASSICS
  • photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
Saint Laurent
★★ ½
Now playing


There is plenty to appreciate about director Bertrand Bonello’s flamboyant, kaleidoscopic fever dream of a biopic of Yves Saint Laurent (played by lookalike Gaspard Ulliel). It’s a mesmerizing depiction of the esteemed French designer’s agonized grasp for all-consuming beauty and creative genius, and it plays out like a tragic love story. The tortured-artist theme may not be fresh, but there is something compelling about Bonello’s ultra-vivid style. Manicured models, swaths of rich textiles and the glittery dust of disco nights are a visual feast of materialistic excess and great fashion.

But for history buffs, or anyone seeking a cradle-to-grave education, the narrative lacks steam. The film eschews a chronological depiction of the life and times of Saint Laurent, narrowing its focus to the designer’s peak years of the ’60s and ’70s. The narrative structure is a muddled pastiche of momentous life events that shape the designer’s creative arc. It notably downplays Saint Laurent’s childhood, his early fashion career (his Christian Dior apprenticeship is only vaguely mentioned) and, most surprisingly, his well-documented relationship with business partner and lover Pierre Bergé (Jérémie Renier).

Instead, the film slogs through scenes of business engagements—workshop design sessions and brand-extension tête-à-têtes—before dropping us into the detached sexual escapism of Parisian discotheques. Jacques de Bascher (a devastatingly charming Louis Garrel) comes to the fore in this era of Saint Laurent’s life, offering lusty sex and pills to soothe and distract. These decadent scenes seem to drag on forever, as if the party will never stop. The end of the film strives to tie up loose ends, cutting between an elderly Saint Laurent (Helmut Berger) and the younger version in an attempt to anchor them in an aging man’s ruminations and hallucinations.

Despite its tiresome reveries, the film hits its stride in its commitment to juxtaposition. Where there is superficiality, there is seduction, and where there is beauty, there is pain. Bonello’s treatment of the subject and the narrative structure might seem tedious and arbitrary, but he offers a complex view of Saint Laurent, as a man and a designer, balanced delicately between genius, contentment and devastating emptiness. Perhaps Bonello’s true desire was not to give a history lesson, but show us the mood of an era—and the inner workings of a man driven by pleasure and pain.

Tags: , , , , ,

Pin It

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Arts



Twitter Activity

Comments

I agree that the vocal work is incredible! And, I thought that the well-made and beautifully-designed set really supported the …

by Judy Dove on Theater Review: Dogfight's Regional Premiere at NRACT Is Rich in Emotion But Meager in Staging (Arts)

In the last 5 years, 11 of the 15 musicals NRACT produced were premieres in the region. I commend them …

by James Ilsley on Theater Review: Dogfight's Regional Premiere at NRACT Is Rich in Emotion But Meager in Staging (Arts)

Most Recent Comments

I agree that the vocal work is incredible! And, I thought that the well-made and beautifully-designed set really supported the …

by Judy Dove on Theater Review: Dogfight's Regional Premiere at NRACT Is Rich in Emotion But Meager in Staging (Arts)

In the last 5 years, 11 of the 15 musicals NRACT produced were premieres in the region. I commend them …

by James Ilsley on Theater Review: Dogfight's Regional Premiere at NRACT Is Rich in Emotion But Meager in Staging (Arts)

Instead of luxury apartments(AHEM Carborro) and new restaurants, build more parking?!(Just one parking garage would help a lot, cover it …

by ammi on The Bookshop Brought Many Rare and First Editions—and Two Famous Cats—to Franklin Street for Thirty-Two Years (Arts)

WELCOME TO THE GREAT BROTHERHOOD.
Do you want to be a member of Illuminati as a brotherhood that will make …

by peter bello on Movie Review: A Dog's Purpose Rolls Over and Plays Dead Under Its Own Heart-Tugging Weight (Arts)

The last thing Chapel Hill needs is another damn restaurant.

by Chrysser on The Bookshop Brought Many Rare and First Editions—and Two Famous Cats—to Franklin Street for Thirty-Two Years (Arts)

© 2017 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation