Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
How Quentin Tarantino & Robert Rodriguez Made Josh Brolin's 'No Country For Old Men' Audition Tape How Quentin Tarantino & Robert Rodriguez Made Josh Brolin's 'No Country For Old Men' Audition Tape 'MacGyver' Movie Reboot And New TV Series Pilot On The Way 'MacGyver' Movie Reboot And New TV Series Pilot On The Way Josh Brolin Says He's Starring With Jessica Chastain In A Movie About George Jones & Tammy Wynette Josh Brolin Says He's Starring With Jessica Chastain In A Movie About George Jones & Tammy Wynette Watch: Robert Richardson Explains Why He Took His Name Off 'World War Z' And More In 58-Minute Cinematographer Talk Watch: Robert Richardson Explains Why He Took His Name Off 'World War Z' And More In 58-Minute Cinematographer Talk George Miller Says He Originally Wanted The Music In 'Mad Max: Fury Road' To Only Come From The Doof Warrior George Miller Says He Originally Wanted The Music In 'Mad Max: Fury Road' To Only Come From The Doof Warrior Review: Coen Brothers' 'Hail, Caesar!' Starring Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, And More Review: Coen Brothers' 'Hail, Caesar!' Starring Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, And More Naomi Watts Confirmed For David Lynch’s ‘Twin Peaks’ Revival; Tom Sizemore Joins Cast Naomi Watts Confirmed For David Lynch’s ‘Twin Peaks’ Revival; Tom Sizemore Joins Cast Watch: Quentin Tarantino Talks 5 Movies To Watch Before 'The Hateful Eight' In 7-Minute Video Watch: Quentin Tarantino Talks 5 Movies To Watch Before 'The Hateful Eight' In 7-Minute Video SAG Award Winners: ‘Spotlight’ Wins Best Ensemble, Leonardo DiCaprio, Idris Elba & Brie Larson Also Score Big SAG Award Winners: ‘Spotlight’ Wins Best Ensemble, Leonardo DiCaprio, Idris Elba & Brie Larson Also Score Big Review: ‘Jane Got A Gun’ Starring Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton & Ewan McGregor Review: ‘Jane Got A Gun’ Starring Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton & Ewan McGregor Mel Gibson Gave Nate Parker Advice On Making 'The Birth Of A Nation' Mel Gibson Gave Nate Parker Advice On Making 'The Birth Of A Nation' The 25 Most Anticipated New TV Shows Of 2016 The 25 Most Anticipated New TV Shows Of 2016 The 20 Best Documentaries Of 2015 The 20 Best Documentaries Of 2015 The 20 Best Films Of 2015 The 20 Best Films Of 2015 The 25 Best Action Movies Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Action Movies Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Sci-Fi Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Sci-Fi Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far Terry Gilliam Talks The "Simplistic" Films Of Steven Spielberg, Dumbing Down Of Audiences, 'Don Quixote' Start Date & More Terry Gilliam Talks The "Simplistic" Films Of Steven Spielberg, Dumbing Down Of Audiences, 'Don Quixote' Start Date & More

Review: Yves Saint Laurent Doc 'L'Amour Fou' Is As Dazzling As a Runway Show (And Just as Hollow)

Photo of Drew Taylor By Drew Taylor | The Playlist May 12, 2011 at 5:20AM

As a conceptual exercise, Pierre Thoretton’s new documentary “L’Amour Fou” is feathered in a nest of intriguing and luxurious what-ifs. Instead of taking the straight-on biographical approach, as so many others would have, Thoretton instead decides to look at the life of fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent through the art collection and antiqued knickknacks he left behind and were sold, en masse, by Christie’s auction house following his death. Interesting questions immediately arise – what can we learn about this man from his possessions? Would his artistic interests outweigh his cultural impact through fashion? And, most importantly, how fucking rich was this guy?
0


As a conceptual exercise, Pierre Thoretton’s new documentary “L’Amour Fou” is feathered in a nest of intriguing and luxurious what-ifs. Instead of taking the straight-on biographical approach, as so many others would have, Thoretton instead decides to look at the life of fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent through the art collection and antiqued knickknacks he left behind and were sold, en masse, by Christie’s auction house following his death. Interesting questions immediately arise – what can we learn about this man from his possessions? Would his artistic interests outweigh his cultural impact through fashion? And, most importantly, how fucking rich was this guy?

Maddeningly, the film itself doesn’t quite answer any of these questions, except for maybe the last one (the answer: very fucking rich) and what starts out as a lovely, gold-speckled trip through the life and death of an astoundingly influential personality, becomes obscured, muddy, and ultimately hard to grasp. What’s left is a beautiful artifact, without much soul.

The movie begins with a press conference, conducted by Saint Laurent, announcing his retirement. After the archival footage goes black, we see footage of his longtime life-and-creative partner Pierre Bergé speaking at Saint Laurent’s funeral, with news footage of the casket being taken out to the hearse. It’s a powerful opening, for sure, and a rare bit of historical context, since for the rest of the movie, we more or less get extended interviews with Bergé and long, sweeping shots that crack through the couple’s various homes, lingering on specific pieces of artwork or gliding along desks littered with priceless heirlooms and artifacts.

At first, this is enough to satisfy you – the cinematography is truly gorgeous, especially for a documentary film, in which realism is usually achieved through the sacrifice of stylization. And the more you get into it, the more you can oddly identify with the scenario. We’ve all lost a partner, either by death or breakup, and much of the middle section of the movie plays out like a prolonged, heightened version of this. Except that instead of having to figure out what to do with your ex’s tour concerts, it’s a Matisse painting that would end up selling for a then-record 32 million Euro.

It’s just that the whole person-through-objects conceptual trapping doesn’t fill out an entire movie, especially when Bergé, who makes veiled references to Saint Laurent’s rampant drug and alcohol abuse and frequent adultery, never delves deep enough into what made them such an amazing couple. A cursory Google search reveals that by some accounts the couple had been romantically separated since the late ‘70s but, on Saint Laurent’s deathbed (he died of brain cancer – a fact that’s never brought up in the documentary), the couple were wed in a civil union. As romantic as the story already is, this would have added an amazing dimensionality to the film that it was sorely lacking.

Instead, we hear from Bergé about the couple’s various homes, each one of them staggeringly gorgeous (but not about Saint Laurent’s increasingly reclusive behavior towards the end of his life), his impact on fashion (but not the catastrophic 1987 runway show that ended his involvement in the ready-to-wear YSL lines), and his brief stint in the military (but not the possibly lifelong effect that cruelty imparted).

You want more, from Bergé and from the documentary. And while the documentary does regain its footing towards the end, with one of the most brilliant, haunting shots we’ve seen in a movie in a long, long time, the impact that the auction itself had on the art world isn’t even touched upon. It’s like Thoretton was so wed to this initial concept for the documentary that even when more interesting avenues presented themselves, he doggedly stayed on track. “L’Amour Fou” stays aloof for too long, or maybe all the interesting bits are just hidden behind all of that artwork. [B-]

"L'Amour Fou" hits theaters in limited release on Friday, May 13th

This article is related to: Review, L'Amour Fou


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates