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Film / Saint Laurent

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Saint Laurent is a 2014 French biopic film about fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent (played by Gaspard Ulliel), primarily focusing on the period after his most famous creations and his life declined into drugs, partying and mental illness.

Directed and written by Bernardo Bonello, the film came out shortly after the authorized Yves Saint Laurent and has an artsier, more surreal style. It also puts the focus on Yves's torrid affair with Jacques de Bascher (Louis Garrel) rather than his longtime lover Pierre Bergé (Jérémie Renier).

This film provides examples of:

  • The '60s: The movie flashes back to the height of Yves's career, when he brought the mod streetwear of London and Paris to the masses and created the 1960s sartorial revolution.
  • The '70s: The movie primarily takes place in the hedonistic 1970s, where disco and cocaine-fueled debauchery were defining elements of Yves's life. He's still a taste maker, particularly in how he takes inspiration from Loulou de la Falaise's haute bohemian style for his collections.
  • All Gays are Promiscuous: Yves and Jacques engage in the promiscuous behavior that characterized the 1970s, including orgies, and the film does not judge them for it.
  • Anachronic Order: Mostly set in the 1970s, the film's nonlinear narrative flashes back and forth in time back to the 1960s and forward through the 1980s and early 2000s.
  • Animal Lover: Played With Yves loves his French Bulldog Moujik, but he also cements his Anti-Hero status when the beloved pooch consumes some of his drugs and Yves and friends are too high to save him. Pierre searches for a replacement, and older Yves is seen with Moujik IV.
  • The Beautiful Elite: Yves lives a life of wealth, fame and privilege, as do his friends and clients.
  • Broken Ace: Yves was a boy genius and wunderkind who is burnt out and struggling with mental illness and substance abuse.
  • Byronic Hero: Yves is so brilliant at what he does, he captivates most people around him. He can be kind, charming and generous but he's also brooding, self-centered, mercurial, sometimes outright mean and is wracked mental illness and substance abuse issues.
  • Camp Gay: Yves, to a certain extent, though he is a complex character. Karl Lagerfeld definitely fits the camp gay trope.
  • Conspicuous Consumption: Yves and Pierre collected art and homes, which are on full display. Yves even shows off his exotic sex toy collection to Jacques.
  • Control Freak: Pierre controls Yves and manages the business well, even as Yves declines.
  • The Dandy: A lot of dandies float around Yves's circle, including Jacques de Bascher.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: After being conscripted into the army, Yves had a mental breakdown and was fired from Christian Dior. While hospitalized, he experienced grim conditions that included sexual assault, electro-shock therapy and implied homophobic abuse.
  • Downer Ending: Zig-Zagged. The film ends on a high note, with a triumphant fashion show in the 1970s, but we've also seen flash-forwards to an elderly Yves pining for his youth and relevance.
  • The Fashionista: Fashionistas are Yves's clientele, so there are many. But it's Betty and Loulou who inspire him with their personal style.
  • Fashion Show: Several occur in the film, including a famous one at Versailles.
  • Hookers and Blow: Coke-fueled parties with rent boys and gigilos become a fixture in Yves's life.
  • Historical Beauty Upgrade: Yves was no doubt a handsome man, but Gaspard Ulliel is much more classically handsome.
  • Historical Domain Character:
    • She's never seen, but Catherine Deneuve is mentioned as Yves is going to style her for a film.
    • Andy Warhol writes Yves a letter, asking him to design an The Andy Warhol dress. Yves cannot fulfill the request.
  • Language Barrier: A long scene showcases Pierre's skill as a businessman, but it's done through an American translator because Pierre does not speak English well enough for the complex negotiations.
  • Love Martyr: Pierre. Yves is too busy with coke, pills and younger men to appreciate him.
  • Love Triangle: Yves takes up with the younger Jacques, much to the chagrin of his long time lover Pierre. It's a quadrangle if you count the fact that Jacques was technically with Yves's old friend and rival Karl Lagerfeld.
  • Lust Object: Jacques de Bascher is intensely lusted after by Yves and many others. Pierre doesn't see it.
  • Manly Gay: Jacques is both The Dandy and an aggressively masculine gay.
  • Modeling Poses: There are a lot of them in the film.
  • The Muse: Betty and Loulou serve as Yves's muses in the film.
  • Only Sane Man: The buttoned-down Pierre may be a bit of a square, but he's often the only one keeping the business afloat and Yves working.
  • Public Exposure: Yves famously posed nude in an advertisement for his perfume.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: Rumors of Saint Laurent's death circulate, culminating in a radio report of his death. Yves refuses to be interviewed or hold a press conference to debunk the rumor, but Pierre brings a group of reporters into the atelier to confirm that the famous designer is, in fact, alive and working on his next collection. Truth in Television, as the bizarre incident actually happened and Saint Laurent didn't die until 2008.
  • Rule of Glamorous: Historically accurate, as Yves surrounded himself with beautiful people, beautiful things and bought beautiful homes.
  • Rule of Symbolism: There are literally snakes in Yves's bed, which is a little on the nose but it works.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Pierre puts up with a lot, but he walks out when Yves tries to kill him in his sleep. They stay business partners and remain close, but the romance ends.
  • Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll: Yves fully embraces the party lifestyle involving drugs, sex and popular music.
  • Straight Gay: Pierre is a straight gay, with no outwardly gay mannerisms or style.
  • Time-Shifted Actor: Helmut Berger plays Saint Laurent in flash forwards to his old age.
  • Took a Level in Badass: We don't know exactly what Pierre did or said to Jacques, but it had the desired effect.
  • Tragic AIDS Story: True to history, the film has flash forwards to portray a dying Jacques sewing his teddy bear, which he will be buried with. Elderly Yves had long parted with him but is still haunted by his memory, and Pierre has to remind him that Jacques is dead.
  • Troubled Fetal Position: Post breakdown, Yves is seen like this.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: This film does not explain much about Saint Laurent's life, career or legacy, assuming the audience knows the basics of his biography and career. This makes the film quite confusing to people who don't already know who Pierre is to Yves, who Karl Lagerfeld is and why that is important, what the Mondrian dress is and Yves's history of mental illness.