Archive for October, 2015

Hollywood studios love to release similar movies competing against each other. Either based on the same story or focussing on a common theme. It’s just the nature of the industry. To have something like that happen in France, however, is quite strange. Yet, last year two movies were released telling the (same) life story of French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent.

One got the okay from the designer’s partner and gives a more chronological account of the icon’s troubled life. The other has a more stellar cast and prefers to create an atmosphere rather than explain things. Both are intriguing. Both give you a good idea of who this man was. A revolutionary artist for fashionistas around the world. Little known to the vast majority of the world population.

To be honest, if someone had asked me before watching these movies what I knew about YSL I would have said: French designer label created by a nerdy looking designer of the same name. That’s it. It’s not like the name is part of the ‘general knowledge’ someone should have. Fashionistas will disagree and compare him to Van Gogh, who everyone has heard about. But really, he’s just a fashion designer.

Yves Saint Laurent is the most interesting movie for those who just want to learn about this icon. It tells the story from his childhood in Algeria to his decadent lifestyle in seventies’ Paris. You get to know how he started out as an assistant to Dior and then took over the company after the latter’s death. How he ended up in a mental hospital, started his own label, trusted his business to his partner, experimented with drugs and sex and created famous collections… The acting is excellent, the setting is gorgeous and it’s well edited, leaving out unnecessary links between the key moments in his life. It shows a flawed but sympathetic character and has some great love scenes. This is the one that got the approval of the designer’s life partner. This is the one that won the César for best actor (deservedly given to).

Saint Laurent is more atmospheric and controversial. It’s overlong and makes the designer look like a real asshole. It has a stellar cast though, who all seem a bit lost in the non-storytelling, but still deliver. The angle is different, both from a cinematic and scriptwriting point of view. The incredibly superficial world of fashion coudn’t have been depicted more superficially. And there’s no love story at all, just a lot more nudity.

Strangely enough, this movie only works after you’ve watched the other one. Stick to this order. First check out Yves Saint Laurent and then continue with Saint Laurent, just the way they were released. If you do it the other way around, you’ll find Saint Laurent too confusing and Yves Saint Laurent too boring.