Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 22nd 2014 Contents A38
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Saturday, March 22, 2014
Yves Saint Laurent became head of
one of the world s great fashion houses
aged 21. Until his death half a century
later in 2008, he was one of fashion s
dominant figures. This year sees the
release of two feature films about his
tumultuous professional and private
life. The first opens this week in the
Earlier masters of Parisian couture
such as Christian Dior or Cristobal
Balenciaga shaped fashion
around the world. But
until Yves Saint Laurent,
no designer found such
personal fame with the
In the 1960s and
1970s he was a reg-
ular in gossip
ly with the likes
of the Rolling
Warhol and the
most gorgeous models of the
Born in colonial Algeria in 1936, Saint
Laurent became an extraordinary prodi-
gy.Always obsessed with fashion, as a
painfully shy teenager he moved to Paris
to work for Dior.
Three years later, Christian Dior died
and Saint Laurent took over as artistic
director at just 21. Many in the fashion
world were astounded but it was clear
a star had arrived.
Pierre Niney takes the title role in the
first of two rival biopics out this year.
At 25, he is well-known in France, with
an obvious talent for comedy. He s also
a good physical match for Saint Laurent
in his younger and more handsome days.
"I did five months of preparation on
his life and character," Niney says.
"I met many of the people Yves knew.
The centre of the film is his relationship
with Pierre Berge, who was Yves partner
in business and in his private life.
"I was lucky to sit down with Berge---
who s now 83---and discuss their life
together. It was a privilege and a big
help because mainly the film is their
The director of the film, simply titled
Yves Saint Laurent, is Jalil Lespert, pre-
viously an actor in the likes of Tell No-
One. He, too, was fascinated by the
men s long friendship.
"Saint Laurent always had a revolu-
tionary vision for women s fashion---
but fate gave him his moment very early
and without Berge perhaps he would
never have achieved so much.
"To give a purpose to life there has
to be someone you love and who loves
you back---otherwise what in life makes
sense? Yves needed Berge emotionally,
although our screenplay is honest about
the problems they had later on," he
"YSL s best designs had a purity to
them: he was a sort of poet of fashion.
But I also wanted people to see he was
funny, at least with his intimate circle
when I think his diffidence disappeared
"Of course it s good that Pierre Niney
resembles Yves but the casting is also
because I knew he would bring out that
Lisa Armstrong, fashion editor of the
Daily Telegraph, says Yves Saint Laurent
remains a major figure.
"He had an innate talent but he was
also very quick to grasp that in the
1960s, the so-called youthquake was
changing all kinds of culture---not just
clothes. The French worried the centre
of fashion was drifting north to London:
YSL was vital in pulling it
back to Paris.
that s very rare."
the film shows how
one another, without
quite finding a way
to dramatise how
Saint Laurent totally
changed female fashion.
"He gave us individual pieces like
the famous smoking tuxedo in 1966
and the safari look. After he split with
the House of Dior, he and Berge moved
fashion away from haute couture
Armstrong says the designer "gave
us the concept of cool on the catwalk,
leaving behind the elegant but slightly
old-fashioned look which dominated
His big idea was that women could
be sexy, modern and emancipated by
looking slightly androgynous.
"Women don t think twice today
about slinging on a boyfriend shirt or
even boyfriend trousers---but we ve for-
gotten that that Left Bank insouciance
was basically down to Yves Saint Lau-
rent. Putting a woman into an elegant
trouser suit was a revolution."
"He s much better known now than
in the early years. Even in France, few
people in the 1960s and 1970s would
have known what he looked like, which
obviously wasn t true with Yves."
Berge has actively assisted in the
making of Lespert s film---providing
access to locations and designs---where-
as he had no involvement with the
other imminent biopic, starring Gaspard
Ulliel and Jeremie Renier.
Gallienne insists they didn t trade
independence for cooperation.
"Pierre Berge has always known how
to recognise an artist. He saw it in Yves,
in the fabulous artists they collected
together and he saw it with Jalil as a
"That s why he said yes to the proj-
ect. But as an actor I didn t set out to
please Pierre Berge with my perform-
"And he didn t interfere with the
script at all: There was nothing we
didn t allow ourselves to think or do.
And I m very proud of the film which
"It s a love-story between two men
Yves Saint Laurent:
FASHION ON FILM
but no one is labelling it as a gay
"I love showing a younger gen-
eration how in the 1950s these two
very different men were so strong
and audacious together."
The film grows darker as it
records Saint Laurent s acknowl-
edged dependence on drink and
drugs as he struggled against
depression and the pressure of
producing two collections a year.
The young Saint Laurent---timid
but possessed of a sly charm and
huge energy---became heavy and
lethargic. At times he seemed bare-
ly to know where he was.
Lespert says that part of the
problem was that Saint Laurent
and Berge found success very
quickly. The move into ready-to-
wear fashions supplied vast
amounts of money.
"Often when you reach the top,
things change and you lose the
taste for life. Things become less
interesting. Yves wasn t the first
person to discover that.
"But despite the problems and
the pressures, Yves and Pierre suc-
ceeded in passing through life
together for many years. And that
is the story we are telling." (BBC)
Pierre Niney, second from left, bears a striking resemblance to young Yves Saint Laurent. AP PHOTO
The young Yves
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