JUNE 24, 2014
More dutiful than elegant, “Yves Saint Laurent”is one of two new dramas about that beatified French fashion designer. The other feature, Bertrand Bonello’s “Saint Laurent,” had its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival last month and posits, with flair and humor, a certain sensual mystery about the shy but passionate couturier and his work. Jalil Lespert’s authorized biopic is the first out of the gate in the United States, however, and it trots out a polite recounting of Saint Laurent’s life in its prime. In the Biopic ‘Yves Saint Laurent,’ Fashion From the VaultJUNE 20, 2014
Donning the requisite black-framed glasses, the boyish Pierre Niney plays the wunderkind who was tapped for creative leadership of Dior at the age of 21, ran his own trendsetting fashion house and also struggled through manic-depression. Pierre Bergé (Guillaume Gallienne) was his lover, wrangler and business partner, making for a beneficial match that would fray with the stress on both sides. The model Victoire Doutreleau (Charlotte Le Bon) also figures as a friend and mild source of intrigue, though the greater world of fashion feels sketchy.
Mr. Lespert and his screenwriters tend to telegraph what’s happening next with on-the-nose dialogue, leaving behind an orderly but not vividly realized biography (or necessarily a complete one). Paris by the decades is recreated, but without a real sense of life in the air. It’s a film that takes on the mood of Mr. Bergé more than that of the prodigy himself, though the depiction of their relationship is at times poignant, if overly restrained.
The head-turning clothes, including Saint Laurent’s legendary Mondrian numbers, are museum-quality, borrowed for the making of the film (and apparently used for only hours at a time). But you might say the same thing about much of the drama, which feels like a well-appointed exhibition of a life.