L’amour fou is a poignant and sensitively delivered account of the life of legendary fashion designer, Yves Saint-Laurent.
Saint-Laurent lived a life of intrigue – and one which will not be of interest to fashion-lovers alone. His rise to fame within the fashion industry was heavily supported and managed by his partner, Pierre Bergé, who is interviewed throughout L’amour fou, offering brief glimpses behind closed doors and into the life they shared together. Saint-Laurent, it emerges, did not love the glamorous life afforded to him by the success of his fashion collections. As his work gained prominence, the designer himself became evermore reclusive and depressed, finding escapism in drugs and alcohol and the pain-salving qualities of… art.
Rather than dwelling on the darker side of Saint-Laurent’s life, it is the art which is the focus of this film, specifically Bergé’s sale of the couple’s massive horde after Saint-Laurent‘s death in 2008. Between them, they had built up an extensive and impressive collection, which heavily adorned the houses which they shared in France and Morocco. The preparation for the art auction provides a useful framework for director Pierre Thoretton, as Bergé recounts time and place in which many key pieces were first purchased throughout their life together. L’amour fou was shot just a year after Saint-Laurent’s death, and Bergé is clearly a man heartbroken by his loss – although the numerous scenes showing their treasured possessions being unceremoniously valued and packed away isn’t particularly subtle in terms of symbolism.
There’s no denying the fact that this documentary is keen to tread carefully when it comes to the portrayal of Saint-Laurent and any revelations regarding his character. For those with a keen interest in the designer, L’amour fou may well offer very little more than what would already be known. However, for anyone who has not seen archive footage of Saint-Laurent – blushing in the spotlight, preparing his models, or with Loulou de la Falaise on one arm and Betty Catroux on the other – his life is undeniably fascinating. Whilst Bergé is the most worthy narrator of such a story, and a widely articulate one too, it is Saint-Laurent who you will be waiting to catch a glimpse of on screen.
Shots of Bergé as an old man, sat alone in the auction house, sometimes feel unnecessary, and it is the bright colours of the fabulous catwalk shows which hold far more allure despite the dated designs. Of course, Bergé’s eulogy to the man he loved is certainly touching, and the art sale proves to be nothing short of momentous. However, the scenes filmed since Saint-Laurent’s death, often amidst overtly luxurious surroundings, still seem somehow empty in comparison. Despite being hidden amongst L’amour fou‘s talk of charity donations and fashion legacies, perhaps this is the point which Bergé is most keen to make.
L’amour fou hits UK cinemas on 7th November 2011, and is out on DVD on 21st November 2011.