Formulaic Biopic in French
A Film Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
There’s an excellent study of the excellent fashion genius in Yves Saint Laurent. But it’s hidden somewhere deep, deep, deep inside. There are flashes of brilliance from time to time but they are muddled by the film’s determination to go from one period of Yves’s life to the next. It’s an anthology sort of format adopted by many biopics and it almost never works because you never get the true portrait of who this person truly was, what motivated them, why they’re important, and or why you should give a care about them in the first place. Yves Saint Laurent gives us glimpses of those important moments, but it doesn’t complete the picture enough to provide the audience a true enough feel Yves Saint Laurent despite Pierre Niney’s terrific performance. Update: This is France’s official pick for the Academy’s Best Foreign Film slate and it should not be a nomination, considering that it was picked over the far superior Blue is the Warmest Color.
The anthology format is what hurts this movie the most. There’s a consistent determination to hit the main points of his prodigal existence. The appointing of being a creative director at Dior. The announcement of his own label. The romance with his partner Pierre. But there’s little emotional resonance in between each point and that’s the most grating part by far. The movie’s in such a hurry of getting from one place to the next that it never bothers to actually stop in one place and take a deep breath. Nor does it carry logical resonance either. Sure, he got the gig at Dior. But how did he garner such an opportunity? Who did he know? How was brilliance truly recognized at one of the greets fashion houses in history?
Nor do you really get to know the person himself from his own lenses. I honestly cannot mark a single layered sequence or even scene where the audience can truly understand what ultimately inspired him. What led him down this path of becoming an artistic legend? His interaction with his muses are truncated in the sense that we never get to see the thoughts of the characters themselves, a necessity considering it’s a biopic. Ultimately, what more than anything else left me truly cold to this endeavor was the film never bothers to show us what’s truly going on inside his head. What Yves thinks, believes, realizes about his own life’s journey is just sort of left unanswered and the film never feels complete because of it. And then the movie just sort of ends in 1976 and it feels like an arbitrary, random cut. I was just left with an odd sort of bemusement at the end. The performances are good and the clothes are really nice. See this or don’t. Or if you really want to watch something about fashion, watch Coco Before Chanel instead.
Title: Yves Saint Laurent
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Jalil Lespert
Producer: Yannick Bolloré, Wassim Béji
Written by: Jacques Fieschi, Jalil Lespert, Jérémie Guez, Marie-Pierre Huster
Based On: Yves Saint Laurent by Laurence Benaïm
Starring: Pierre Niney, Guillaume Gallienne, Charlotte Le Bon. Laura Smet, Marie de Villepin, Xavier Lafitte, Nikolai Kinski
Music: Ibrahim Maalouf
Cinematography: Thomas Hardmeier
Editing: François Gédigier
Production Company: Canal+, SND, Wy Productions
Distributor: The Weinstein Company (United States)
Running Time: 105 minutes
Release Dates: January 8, 2014
Image Courtesy: O Cinema