Saint Laurent (2014) Tribute to Gaspard Ulliel

January 19th, 2022
Author: Meredith Taylor

Director: Bertrand Bonnello | Cast: Lea Seydoux, Gaspard Ulliel, Louis Garrel, Aymeline Valade, Brady Corbet | France Biopic

Bertrand Bonnello presents his sinuously sensual portrait of YSL that focuses on the designer’s early years. Although a great deal longer than Jalil Lespert’s version, it doesn’t really illuminate more of the designer’s life but centres on his sexuality to the apparent disproval of Pierre Bergé for reasons that will emerge on viewing. Gaspard Ulliel gives a far more complex portrait than Pierre Neney’s elegant but sterile take on YSL (although the latter was superb); Ulliel’s starry allure also has more to offer female audiences coupled with the additional frisson of Louis Garrel as his lover, Lea Seydoux as Loulou de la Falaise and Betty Catroux (Aymeline Valade). There’s an inspired midway montage where the screen splits to offer salient events ‘du jour’ as the YSL key looks are parading on the seventies catwalk. This serves as a brilliant counterpoint to social history as much as a slight dig at the ephemeral nature of the fashion world. Bonnello captures the zeitgeist of the seventies and the heady world of pristine couture that ushered in the more relaxed prey-a-porter era. YSL’s languorous and luxurious styling; darkly exotic designs; femme fatale models (Helmut Newton-style); louche living both in Paris and Morocco, and, of course, his descent into drugs are all encapsulated in this dreamy drama. Ulliel’s performance is vulnerable and coltish; always delicate but supremely sexual. Bergé gets short shrift here, with Jeremie Renier hardly getting a look-in and there is much less focus on the business-side apart from a protracted scene with a US Financier (Brady Corbet) that feels out of place. Louis Garrel gives an awkward performance as his lover, Jacques de Bascher, looking more like a German stormbamführer than his aristocratic and dominant beau. The only other slight flaw in Bonnello’s biopic is his decision to cast Helmut Belger as the ageing YSL, in a badly voice-synced, and ill-advised jump forward. Otherwise, this is a visual treat that won Best Costumes at the Cesar awards. MT


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