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Film / Yves Saint Laurent

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Yves Saint Laurent is a 2014 French Biopic film about the fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent that traces his life from his early days as a fashion prodigy through his phenomenal success in the 1960s and 1970s. Directed by Jalil Lespert, it stars Pierre Niney as Saint Laurent and Guillaume Gallienne as his business partner and lover Pierre Bergé. The film was authorized by the estate of Yves Saint Laurent and features the designer's authentic creations in the fashion show scenes.

The film was met with mixed reviews due to its rather formulaic rise/fall/redemption storyline, but its lead performances were universally praised as was the presence of Saint Laurent's actual designs. It came out the same year as another biopic about YSL (and unauthorized this time), Saint Laurent, starring Gaspard Ulliel.

This film provides examples of:

  • The '50s: The film begins in glamorous post-war Paris, where the men all wear suits and the women wear Christian Dior, whom Yves works for.
  • The '60s: Yves creates a fashion revolution by bringing the mod streetwear of London and Paris to Haute Couture, then turning around and making those designs available to the masses via ready-to-wear. The wealthy Pierre and Yves also become part of haute Bohemian Marrakesh, which in turn inspires Yves's style.
  • The '70s: By the 1970s, Yves's fully embraces Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll (or more accurately Disco) and his last great collections define the style of that era.
  • All Gays are Promiscuous: Played true to the complicated history. Yves is promiscuous, enjoying sex with strangers, friends, acquaintances, and men with whom he is in love. Pierre, on the other hand, refers to himself as being part of the cult of fidelity until he meets Yves. The two settle into an open relationship.
  • Adapted Out:
    • Although she was a great friend of Yves and one of his muses, Catherine Deneuve does not appear in the film, either as a character or in a cameo.
    • Although he mentions being a dog lover, none of Yves's many beloved dogs appear in the film.
  • Anger Born of Worry: Pierre getting angry over Yves's self-destruction becomes a central facet of their relationship.
  • Artistic Licence – History:
    • Yves and Pierre officially ended their romantic relationship in 1976, although they remained business partners, sometimes still lived together, and were joined in a civil union right before Yves's death. It was obviously complicated, and the movie doesn't mention the breakup.
    • The film implies the menage a trois with Victoire was short-lived. She claims the three-way love affair lasted for approximately three years. She also says that she was surprised to see her affair with Bergé portrayed in the film because she had, at Bergé's request, kept it a secret up until then. When she subsequently inquired with the famously controlling Bergé if she could write about it in her memoir, he replied to her surprise that he trusted her to do so. Accounts differ as to how much Saint Laurent knew of the affair between his muse and lover.
    • Pierre's reputation in the fashion world is controversial. He certainly controlled Yves, the brand and the company with an iron fist. Some people view this negatively and Pierre as a bully who benefitted financially from his partner's creativity, while others see his behavior as the devotion of a man who wanted to protect the fragile Yves from fashion's bottom feeders. Since Pierre signed off on this film, he's portrayed as a positive force in Yves's life.
    • The scene where Yves is interviewed in the pool, with Pierre looking on, is based on a real interview in which an off-camera Pierre asked Yves the questions. The film mostly uses his real answers, with a few adjustments.
    • Possibly to avoid a Downer Ending, the film skips the 1980s and 1990s when the House of St. Laurent lost some of its luster and Yves's health declined. The house remained financially successful, but Yves never achieved the same relevance he had enjoyed early in his career.
  • The Beautiful Elite: This trope pretty much sums up Yves and Pierre's lives of jet setting, fame, money, lavish parties, beautiful lovers and gorgeously appointed homes. It describes Yves's clientele as well.
  • Big Damn Kiss: Yves and Pierre share their First Kiss-es on the banks of Seine, beginning what will be a 50 year-long partnership in business and in life.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The film is framed and narrated with an elderly Pierre writing a love letter to the now-dead Yves about their life and their art collection, which is now up for auction. The last sequence shows an elderly Yves still sketching as Pierre cares for him before fading to a shot of Pierre alone, missing him.
  • Break the Cutie: Yves is conscripted into the army, which causes a nervous breakdown, which causes him to be fired from Christian Dior. It is suspected that the owner of Christian Dior arranged for the conscription so he could replace Yves after the 1958 collection was unsuccessful. Pierre and Yves successfully sue, and they use the money to start their own house.
  • Broken Ace: Yves is a fashion prodigy, but it has come at the price of his mental stability.
  • Conspicuous Consumption: Both Yves and Pierre enjoy spending the money they have earned. Yves is shown buying a buddha without knowing the cost, and their homes are shown to be elaborately decorated and beautiful. They throw lavish parties, wear beautiful clothes and amass a stunning art collection. The film is framed with an elderly Pierre arranging to auction the couple's art collection after Yves's death. Pierre actually amassed one of the finest private rare book collections in the world. Though this is not directly portrayed in the film, the last shot shows Pierre alone and framed with books after Yves's death in 2008.
  • Control Freak: Pierre takes care of everything and is fiercely protective of Yves and the St. Laurent brand.
  • Costume Porn: Possibly one of the greatest examples in cinema, the St. Laurent estate lent the production 77 authentic, historic garments for many of the scenes — Curators from the Saint Laurent archive were on set to make sure none of the historic pieces used were damaged. The models were cast based on size, given the clothes could not be altered, and the models wore special underwear so their skin never touched the clothes. Even critics who disliked the film suggested seeing it just for the fashion history on display.
  • Creator Breakdown: In-Universe, St. Laurent is committed to a mental institution after being conscripted into the army. Pierre rescues him, but he's never quite the same.
  • The Dandy: A lot of dandies float around Yves's circle, but the one who really catches his eye is Jacques.
  • Deuteragonist: Yves's life story is seen through the eyes of Pierre Bergé, who narrates the film.
  • Ethical Slut: At times, Yves and Pierre's open relationship works well, other times jealousy surfaces, but they try and be ethical with each other.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Yves thumbs through an art book and sees a Mondrian painting...the rest is history.
  • The Fashionista: Many appear in the film, as they are Yves's clients. Conversely, Betty and Loulou are seen inspiring Yves's with their personal fashion choices.
  • Fashion Magazine: Throughout the film, there are scenes featuring reporters and editors from various fashion magazines as well as photo shoots for those magazines.
  • Fashion Show: There are several recreated in the film.
  • Freak Out: A tragic real-life example, Yves was never the same after his conscription, firing from Christian Dior, and the subsequent breakdown.
  • Friend Versus Lover:
    • Yves's closeness with Victoire rankles Pierre. He seduces her, and everything eventually falls apart.
    • Years later, Loulou accuses Pierre of isolating Yves's from his friends. He pleads guilty but tells her that it's because she gives him drugs and he's trying to protect him.
  • Functional Addict: At least through the sixties and seventies, Yves's substance abuse does not affect his ability to work.
  • Gayngst Downplayed. Yves and Pierre are both comfortable with their sexuality for most of the film. However, in the aftermath of his breakdown, Yves tearfully talks about the bullying he experienced in Catholic School.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Karl Lagerfeld has a crush on Yves who has a pararomantic friendship with Victoire Doutreleau. Yves meets Pierre Bergé who is living with the painter Bernard Buffet. Pierre leaves Bernard for Yves but soon becomes jealous of Victoire. Pierre seduces Victoire, which infuriates Yves. Years later, Karl resurfaces in their lives with his nonsexual paramour Jacques de Bascher in tow. Jacques seduces Yves, infuriating Pierre.
  • Love Triangle: There are a few, but late in the film Yves takes up with the young, debauched Jacques de Bascher, causing tension between him and Pierre.
  • Lust Object: Yves falls in immediately lust with Jacques de Bascher.
  • Manly Gay: Jaques manages to be both The Dandy and a very masculine gay note .
  • Masculine–Feminine Gay Couple: Yves is effete while Pierre is a Straight Gay.
  • Modeling Poses: There are multiple fashion shows and fashion shoots in the film, so many poses.
  • The Muse: Victoire, Betty and Loulou are just a few of the muses who inspired St. Laurent. The film implies him to be homosexual but biromantic in that he engaged in emotional, non-sexual affairs with his muses.
  • Muse Abuse: Victoire finds herself in the middle of a Love Triangle between Yves and Pierre, and she ends up on the end of emotional abuse because of it.
  • No Bisexuals: Averted with Pierre who displays non-romantic sexual attraction to Victoire. Played With with Yves, who displays no sexual attraction to women but has romantic feelings towards his muses.
  • Only Sane Man: Pierre is Yves's sanity anchor, and he is only occasionally seen partying. He also continues to wear conservative business suits while surrounded by people wearing the high fashion of the 1960s and 1970s.
  • A Party, Also Known as an Orgy: Parties at Pierre and Yves's tend to devolve into sex, especially at their Morrocan villa. In one scene, which comes off as rather wholesome, Yves and Pierre make love while one of Pierre's other lovers sleeps next to them.
  • The Perfectionist: Both Yves and Pierre are perfectionists, on the design side and business side respectively.
  • Public Exposure: Yves scandalizes the fashion world by posing nude for a perfume ad.
  • Queer Romance: The film heavily focuses on the love story between St. Laurent and his business and life partner, Pierre Bergé.
  • Rage Breaking Point: Pierre puts up with a lot from Yves, but the affair with Jacques crosses a line for the couplenote .
  • Sanity Slippage:
    • Yves snaps at Pierre early on, uncharacteristically at this point, and its revealed he's gotten his conscription papers. Just the pressure of this is getting to him, and his stint in the army will lead to a full breakdown.
    • Later, Yves is drinking too much and complains to Pierre about his stress. He says he put the noose around his own neck, and Pierre is tightening it.
  • Second Love: Yves is Pierre's second love, after the painter Bernard Buffet. He's living with Bernard when he meets Yves, but he soon leaves him for Yves.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: In early scenes, both Yves and Pierre wear immaculately tailored suits. Later, as fashions change, Pierre sticks to his classic, tailored business suits in a sea of more flamboyant dress.
  • Situational Sociability: Yves is so cripplingly shy, he can barely walk the runway after his shows and sometimes must be pushed to do so. He's also given to self-deprecation in interviews, which doesn't play well in the fashion press so Pierre has to do the promotion. Yet, when he's comfortable with someone or when he is using alcohol or cocaine as a social lubricant, he can be charming and affable.
  • The Stoner: Someone makes some magic brownies at the Moroccan villa, and this makes the already fun party even more fun.
  • Teen Genius: A teenage Yves is hired as Christian Dior's assistant based on his extraordinary talent. He even designs a few looks on his own, and when Dior dies suddenly, Yves is promoted to Creative Director at age 21.
  • A Threesome Is Hot: In a film celebrating sexual freedom, there are several menage a trois scenes, most of which are shown to be hot, whether they be m/m/f or f/f/m.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: Anyone with a deep familiarly with YSL's history will be rewarded by the presence of real designs and recreations of his legendary homes. Also, the film doesn't stop to explain who everyone is but there are brief appearances by people like Carmel Snow, Jean Cocteau, Andy Warhol, Fernando Sanchez and Karl Lagerfeld.

Alternative Title(s): Yves St Laurent