Yves Saint Laurent is a fashion house that is synonymous with high end goods; most likely you’ve seen at least one handbag with the YSL logo on it. St. Laurent is a French biopic that gives a face to the founder of the YSL brand, though in the late 1960’s Yves himself was as much a commodity as his designs.
The role of Yves Saint Laurent is played by the painfully handsome Gaspard Ulliel who probably is remembered best in America for his title role in 2007’s Hannibal Rising. Looks aside, Ulliel ably conveys the personality of this bon vivant who was as vulnerable to his whims as he was ruled by them. If any of what the movie shows is to be believed, Saint Laurent was definitely a hedonist whose extremes make one marvel at the hardiness of the human body. While the film doesn’t spend any time exploring the root cause of his behavior, it certainly shows how far he was willing to test his limits.
It is expected that the wardrobe here would be top notch and that expectation is met completely. The women’s clothing is vibrant and evolves rapidly through the story, as haute fashion is wont to do, although save for bell bottoms, the men’s fashion is fairly timeless. All that being said, the fashion presented here is more akin to window dressing which is as it should be in a biopic, that is, when clothes are on people at all, that is. There’s lots of female nudity, mostly during backstage runway changes, and full frontal male nudity during some of Yves’ gay trysts that are taken up to the point of intercourse but then in an odd way quaintly faded out.
The film focuses solely on Yves. The supporting cast only serve to further explore his story. That lack of depth can at times be frustrating because without further explanation it is difficult to understand why these people would continue to subject themselves to Yves’ whims. Most notable for this is Yves’s life and business partner Pierre Bergé who is stuck constantly addressing personal and professional crises created by the designer.
Saint Laurent clocks in at 150 minutes and is fairly well paced for its long running time, but suffers on that front from time jumps that are not introduced until late in the film. The acting and cinematography are solid enough to keep your attention during the 2.5 hours, but not what I’d describe as groundbreaking. Fashionistas and admirers of the late 60’s/early 70’s aesthetic will certainly be those who find themselves most entertained by the stage that is set. It’s also intriguing to follow the passage of time by reflected by the changes in the American music that’s played in the chic Parisian discotheques. Ultimately though, while Yves Saint Laurent the man was quite interesting, the movie Saint Laurent does not have enough depth to it to it for much broad spectrum appeal.