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By Kate Smith
22nd June 2014

Haute couture was once a great love of mine, so I had mixed expectations for this film. Would this biopic do justice to one of fashion’s heroes?

‘Yves Saint Laurent’ follows the career of one of the greatest designers, from his early career at Dior through to his golden years. Fashion is an art form, and just as many artists are, designers are tortured souls. Yves Saint Laurent was certainly that, battling bipolar disorder and poor health for much of his life. Prodigious drug use certainly didn’t help.

The film begins with a very young Yves (Pierre Niney) designing for Christian Dior, while his family is threatened with the war in Algiers. He meets the man who would become his partner in life and business, Pierre Bergé (Guillaume Gallienne) and when drafting triggers Yves’ bipolar, it is Pierre who supports him, and his point of view that guides the film. Together they build a fashion empire, struggling with Yves’ artistic demons, infidelity, and the rockstar lifestyle of high fashion.


The acting from Gallienne as Pierre is excellent, understated and intense. Niney, on the other hand, wavers. He showcases Laurent’s famous temper and volatile mood swings, but Yves’ nervousness and unassuming manner seem forced.

Colour is used brilliantly in ‘Yves Saint Laurent’ with beautifully designed sets, in combination with lighting, to effectively set different tones throughout the film. Shining golden light infuses some scenes with a peaceful joy. The colour in the fashion is also striking, with the clothes becoming almost characters themselves. The music is overly dramatic at times and is almost distracting from the action on screen.

The acceptance of homosexuality in Paris in the 50s – 80s isn’t confronting, but it is very noticeable, and in a way, inspiring. Yves and Pierre, and many of their circle, were openly homosexual or bisexual. It was just part of their lives. The only mention of homophobia is when Yves describes being beaten for being a "faggot" in his hometown.

Colour is used brilliantly in ‘Yves Saint Laurent’ with beautifully designed sets, in combination with lighting, to effectively set different tones throughout the film.

Another striking social factor in this film is the status of women: in the 50s in Paris, women ran divisions of fashion houses. They weren’t just relegated to secretaries. Women play a huge part in this film about the relationship between two men.

Some of the events in ‘Yves Saint Laurent’ aren’t clear – the film attempts to leave things unsaid; things that really needed to be said, as you spend a little too much time trying to figure out what just happened. At the end of the film I felt it was missing something, that it was incomplete. Despite this, I did enjoy the film, and thought it an interesting take on the career of a master of sartorial expression.

RELEASE DATE: 26/06/2014
RUN TIME: 1h 46m
CAST: Pierre Niney
Guillaume Gallienne
Charlotte Le Bon
DIRECTOR: Jalil Lespert
WRITERS: Laurence Benaïm
Jacques Fieschi
PRODUCER: Yannick Bolloré
SCORE: Ibrahim Maalouf
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