What’s Good On Netflix: Yves Saint Laurent
Dir. Jalil Lespert
Wri. Laurence Benaim (book) Marie-Pierre Huster, Jalil Lespert ,Jacques Fieschi, Jérémie Guez
Exec Prod. Thierry Desmichelle, Yannick Bolloré
Starring: Pierre Ninney, Guillaume Gallienne, Charlotte Le Bon, Laura Smet, Marie de Villepin
Yves Saint Laurent. Who was he? A legend in the fashion world. An innovator. He was classic. So why don’t we know more about him? A long lasting statement of a certain style, a certain elegance. But who was he? I personally never understood why I liked him. I just knew I knew I did. Something about his fashion: very square and very mysterious. In Yves Saint Laurent, director by Jalil Lespert attempts to give us a glimpse into the man that was Laurent. It is a portrayal of a man, who could only be seen through what he put in front of him: Art and love. The film begins with drab shots of an French occupied Algeria, during an eight year period of resistance by Algerian nationals. There is a fade, that bring us to a an upscale house and a garden being worked. It is 1957. In the next shot a tracking shot ushers us into the dry and colorful world of Laurent. He is drawing, while beneath him his mother and friends talks about war and him. He can hear this, but does not pay attention He gets up and looks out his window, down at a gardener and fancies him This is the beginning of Laurent the man: unabashedly wealthy; distant.
Early on, we see Laurent’s desire for men, and it first depicted in a scene where he flirts with the partner of a young Karl Lagerfeld. There, in the dark, huddled up in bed with a woman, Victoire Doutreleau (Charlotte Le Bon) who goes on to be one of his star models, Laurent finds a way to be authentic as he trades gazes and holds hands with this other man. Enter voice over of someone saying, “Yves. You were so young, so handsome, so shy, an so luminous… “it is the voice of Peter Berge’s (Guillaume Gallienne), Laurent’s lifelong partner. The scene fades into a long shot of the L’Hôtel national des Invalides then fades, showing Berge’s siting at a café reminiscing about Yves, during the auctioning of their art collection. He goes on to say, “You loved beauty, Yves.”
Yves Saint Laurent is a film as much about Laurent as it is about art, about fashion and what fashion is: art history. From the many wide, mid angle and long shots of buildings that often sit behind Yves and friends in Paris, or the houses they occupy that look straight out of a Harper’s Bazaar or Vogue, or any biography on fashion designers, to the attention Lesper gives to historic figures such as Lagerfeld, fashion journalists Marie Louise-Bousquet to the fact that the film reveals Yves manic depression—his curse from being bullied as a child, not having his mother as a protector for withstanding gay slurs, and anytime he was without fashion; and how the story is told from Berge’s’ point of view. Berge’s is just as much apart of the Yves Saint Laurent brand as the art of YSL. He is the one who helps catapult Laurent into stardom; he is the one who helps Laurent discover himself, even if it is at his own expense.
In a scene where Laurent reveals he has been cheating on Berge’s with a boyfriend of Lagerfeld (yes, again) he tells Berge’s “I love him. But you are the love of my life.” This scene reminds me of the beginning where we see Laurent at the window. A scared, brilliant man, who wants to look at life but can’t do it without another person. Without someone saying it’s ok, the way fashion does. It takes a good amount of bravery to be an artist. To be able to see what other’s aren’t and to say this is the way we should go. The truth about the man, Laurent, is that he existed through things. Which is how you stay invisible. Which is why artists can be hard to understand. I remember buying a book on Coco Chanel. I was in New York and at first I couldn’t read it. I tried to read it when I got home and couldn’t do it. I sat back and asked myself why? And in remembering it now– and remembering then, how I couldn’t read another book about another artist, Lorna Simpson– I realized then that I didn’t want to read it. I just wanted to look at the fashion.