Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Seth Rogen, Megan Fox, Will Ferrell, Danny McBride, Dave Franco And More Join James Franco’s 'Zeroville' Seth Rogen, Megan Fox, Will Ferrell, Danny McBride, Dave Franco And More Join James Franco’s 'Zeroville' 10 Great Self-Absorbed, Narcissistic Movie Assholes 10 Great Self-Absorbed, Narcissistic Movie Assholes Watch: Zach Galifianakis Takes On Brad Pitt In Latest 'Between Two Ferns' Plus Louis C.K. Stops By Watch: Zach Galifianakis Takes On Brad Pitt In Latest 'Between Two Ferns' Plus Louis C.K. Stops By Watch: First Trailer For 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron,' Brings Mass Destruction Along With Scarlet Witch & Quicksilver Watch: First Trailer For 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron,' Brings Mass Destruction Along With Scarlet Witch & Quicksilver Watch: 'Star Wars' Prequels Recut Into 2 Hour 40 Minute 'Turn to the Darkside: Episode 3.1' Watch: 'Star Wars' Prequels Recut Into 2 Hour 40 Minute 'Turn to the Darkside: Episode 3.1' Edward Norton Says He Didn't Return To Play Hulk Because He Wanted More "Diversity" In His Film Roles Edward Norton Says He Didn't Return To Play Hulk Because He Wanted More "Diversity" In His Film Roles Oscar Buzz: Who Could Be Set For Nods In The Supporting Actress Race? Oscar Buzz: Who Could Be Set For Nods In The Supporting Actress Race? Juliette Binoche Says Her Performance In 'Godzilla' Made Quentin Tarantino Cry Juliette Binoche Says Her Performance In 'Godzilla' Made Quentin Tarantino Cry Watch: Say Goodbye To 'Boardwalk Empire' With 30-Minute Doc 'The Final Shot' With Martin Scorsese, Steve Buscemi, More Watch: Say Goodbye To 'Boardwalk Empire' With 30-Minute Doc 'The Final Shot' With Martin Scorsese, Steve Buscemi, More Listen To Chvrches "Get Away" From The Rescored Version Of Nicolas Winding Refn's 'Drive' Plus Check Out The Trailer Listen To Chvrches "Get Away" From The Rescored Version Of Nicolas Winding Refn's 'Drive' Plus Check Out The Trailer The Essentials: The 10 Best Michael Keaton Performances The Essentials: The 10 Best Michael Keaton Performances George Lucas Says Studios "Don't Have Any Imagination And Don't Have Any Talent" George Lucas Says Studios "Don't Have Any Imagination And Don't Have Any Talent" Recap: 'Boardwalk Empire' Season 5, Episode 7 ‘Friendless Child’ Recap: 'Boardwalk Empire' Season 5, Episode 7 ‘Friendless Child’ Watch: Baz Luhrmann's Chanel No. 5 Short Film "The One That I Want" Starring Gisele Bündchen Watch: Baz Luhrmann's Chanel No. 5 Short Film "The One That I Want" Starring Gisele Bündchen WTF: Horror Hit 'Annabelle' Yanked From French Theaters Due To Rioting WTF: Horror Hit 'Annabelle' Yanked From French Theaters Due To Rioting Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes

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