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DVD Review

DVD cover

Yves Saint Laurent


Starring: Pierre Niney, Guillaume Gallienne, Charlotte Le Bon and Laura Smet
Distributor: Entertainment One
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 15
Release Date: 14 July 2014

Born in 1936, France, Yves Henri Donat Mathieu-Saint-Laurent would become one of the world's most renowned designers of Haute Couture. Starting as a young designer with Christian Dior, his short and catastrophic national service at the time of the civil war in Algeria would see Yves fired from Dior, seemingly ending his career. However he had already met and fallen in love with Pierre Bergé who although he knew little about fashion was a successful businessman in his own right. With the help of Pierre, Yves set up his own design house...

Yves Saint Laurent (2014 - 1 hr, 41 min - French with English subtitles) is the biopic of the renowned designer, directed by Jalil Lespert, based on the Laurence Benaïm book.

The film follows Yves from the late fifties to his untimely death in 2008. The film open with Pierre Bergé (Guillaume Gallienne) selling off the art collection that he and Yves had collected over their long and tumultuous relationship, before skipping back in time to the late fifties and their first meeting.

Yves, played by Pierre Niney, is initially portrayed as a shy and introverted young man, openly homosexual, at a time when although legal, was still frowned upon in liberal France. Although for most of his life this aspect of his personality changed little, his short conscription in the army was to be a turning point in his life, resulting in a mental breakdown and a lifelong addiction to alcohol and drugs to mediate his manic depression.

The makers and actors in the film had extraordinary access to not only people who knew Yves, given that he died not long ago, many, if not most of the people depicted in the film are still alive. Pierre Bergé not only gave the film full access to both Yves' home and studio, but also lent the film over seventy original dresses to use. He also collaborated with the story, as did Betty Catroux. In the extras they praise Niney’s portrayal of Yves, stating it was like watching Yves reborn.

With so many people who obviously loved the tempestuous designer, you would think that the film would whitewash over some of Yves less desirable traits, but this is not the case. Yves is shown to be emotionally unstable, unable to remain faithful to his partner and even turning on his friends. It does give a more rounded portrayal of the man, but you do wonder that had he not been a genius with Bergé there to protect him, that he would have died of his own excesses much earlier than he did.

Guillaume Gallienne (Bergé) serves as the audience point of view both opening and closing the film. Often misunderstood by Yves' family, he was in the unique position to see just how mentally frail Yves really was and spent his life trying to protect him, even from himself. It is the relationship between these two men which forms the backbone of the film.

Both actors are extremely good in their parts, as are the supporting actors, especially Charlotte Le Bon (who plays Yves' one time favourite model, Victoire Doutreleau until he unkindly fired her, seemingly for having the temerity to cut her hair, just prior to a show), and Marie de Villepin as Betty Catroux who would become the new face of Yves Saint Laurent and one that would often be party to Yves' less than savoury exploits.

The cinematography of the film is sumptuous, obviously helped by access to locations that Yves lived and worked in, as well as the original dresses and the jazz score is pitched perfect for the film. If the movie has a fault it is that it covers such an extensive time period that very often you get the feeling that events are just sliding past your eyes, without giving the audience time to linger. In this, the film lacks some depth.

The DVD comes with a good selection of extras, kicking off with the Making of (13 min, 34 sec) with contributions from the director and the principle actors. Red Carpet, Press Junket and Photo Shoot (14 min, 52 sec) once more with the director and actors, who engage in a Q&A session to mark the release of the film.

Learning How to Draw like Yves Saint Laurent and How to Walk on the Catwalk with Audrey Secnazi and Violetta Sanchez (5 min, 43 sec) has these two ladies explaining how these aspects of the film were achieved. The Pierre Bergé - Yves Saint Laurent Foundation Reveals its Secrets (6 min, 57 sec) is a look behind the foundations collection of Yves work. Interview with Laurence Benaïm, Author of Yves Saint Laurent (5 min, 01 sec), has the author explain why he found the story so compelling and finally there is an Interview with Pierre Bergé (6 min, 03 sec) with Bergé talking about his time with Yves and why he allowed the film such access to Yves' life.

As a film it is great to look at but the speed at which it skims across Yves' life means that it is much shallower than it should have been.


Charles Packer

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