Published May 26, 2011Instantly recognizable with his iconic, trademark, thick, black-rimmed specs, Yves Saint Laurent (who passed away in 2008) dominated the world of haute-couture in the late 20th century. A biographical documentary reliant largely on archival footage and interviews with Pierre Bergé (Saint Laurent's former lover and long-time companion), Pierre Thoretton's L'amour Fou is a film that's lovely to look at but largely empty.
L'amour Fou takes place as Bergé prepares to auction off the Saint Laurent estate's massive collection of art treasures from around the world, and pauses to reminisce over his life with the fashion mogul. Haltingly shy and soft-spoken, but with a gravitating presence (much like Andy Warhol, who appears in archival footage), Saint Laurent was creatively driven and faced multiple personal demons throughout his life, and Bergé was always there to pick up the pieces.
Saint Laurent and Bergé were, if not opposites, certainly polarized in many ways. Bergé was the rational pragmatist to Saint Laurent's artistic whimsy, managing every aspect of their life together, forcing the designer out of bed when he was too depressed to face the day.
The film's great flaw is that Bergé seems to have exerted too much control over the filmmakers as well. While the film is certainly candid, it veers into bland hagiography all too often. None of the interview subjects want to really open up about Saint Laurent and dissenting voices are few. Raw, unpolished and unapologetically human footage of the enigmatic Saint Laurent is in short supply. The arresting footage that opens the film of Saint Laurent's 2002 press conference announcing his retirement, reading a prepared statement yet speaking with weary candour, is as revealing as the film dares to be.
This isn't the first Yves Saint Laurent documentary to come down the pipe in recent years. While fashionistas will find lots of eye candy in L'amour Fou, those searching for the definitive documentary portrait will remain insatisfait. (Mongrel Media)