Yves Saint Laurent, directed by Jalil Lespert, has just been released into cinemas in Berlin. Co-written with Jacques Fieschi, Jérémie Guez and Marie-Pierre Huster, the film is based on the life of the famous French fashion designer and stars Pierre Niney as Yves Saint Laurent, Guillaume Gallienne as Pierre Bergé, Charlotte Le Bon, Laura Smet, Marie de Villepin, Xavier Lafitte and Nikolai Kinski.
In February the film opened the Panorama Special section of the 64th Berlin International Film Festival with director, cast and Pierre Bergé in attendance at the renovated Zoo Palast. This West Berlin cinema was central to the Berlinale from its beginnings in 1951 so it’s fitting that a film about that Yves Saint Laurent should premiere at its re-opening because it mirrors the glamour associated with the Berlinale, particularly red carpet premieres.
The story begins in 1958 and takes up in Saint Laurent’s late youth, his rise to fame and ends in the latter years of his life. The plot largely concerns the professional and personal relationship of Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé as they revolutionize the French fashion industry but manage to stay friends despite their often unruly behavior and the pressures of success. The script was largely based on Laurence Benaïm’s biography of Saint Laurent and Bergé’s reminiscences in his book Letters to Yves.
Filming began in June 2013 and Bergé himself was sometimes present, particularly to advise on the use of models for the reconstitution of Saint Laurent’s famous Opéra Ballets Russes collection from 1976, filmed at the fashions show’s original venue, the Westin hotel (nee InterContinental). Also, for further authenticity, Bergé’s foundation loaned many original outfits from its archives and allowed director Lespert to film certain scenes at its headquarters on Avenue Marceau in Paris. Bergé approved of Lespert’s film, not least for showing Saint Laurent’s dark and wild side, normally hidden from the public.
Pierre Niney is excellent as Laurent, as is Guillaume Gallienne as Bergé. The film also conveys revealing insights into Saint Laurent not always made apparent in the book. The superfluous and often crazy world of the fashion industry is rendered appropriate and the director manages to convey the freedom and decadence of this world in a captivating and plausible way while always remaining focused on the two central characters. Furthermore, the photography by Thomas Hardmeier along with the authentic clothes and locations help convey the period well.