When Yves Saint Laurent announced in 2001 that he was retiring from the fashion house he'd first established 40 years earlier with his lover, Pierre Berge, the story made the front page of the New York Times. It was, after all, major news: It might be easy to undervalue the importance of fashion in general, but it would be hard to overstate Saint Laurent's influence as one of the great couturiers of the past century. Filmmaker David Teboul explores the nature of Saint Laurent's peculiar genius in these two related documentaries that, taken together, form an interesting portrait of a fascinating, if at times maddeningly enigmatic, figure of high fashion. YVES SAINT LAURENT: HIS LIFE AND TIMES begins with the soft-spoken, chain-smoking Saint Laurent recalling his difficult childhood in Oran, Algeria, then his move to Paris where, at 17, he dazzled the great Christian Dior with a portfolio full of elegant, Dior-inspired women's fashions. Saint Laurent was hired almost immediately, and in 1958 Dior even went so far as to name him as his successor. Days later, Dior was dead, and Saint Laurent, at the tender age of 21, found himself heading one of the greatest fashion houses Paris had ever known. He was an instant success, but was shown the door in 1961 after a disappointing collection. Undaunted, Saint Laurent and Berge opened a house of their own and the runways were soon rocked by Saint Laurent's innovative, often shocking, creations — the women's tuxedo he called "Le Smoker," the safari jacket, and that witty riposte to the fashion-is-not-art argument, the Mondrian dress. The collections defined a changing segment of society and helped women redefine their role in it, but while the film captures all the beauty of these extraordinary pieces, the details of Saint Laurent's legendarily turbulent personal life are glossed over with frustrating tact. Perhaps it was precisely this tact that encouraged Saint Laurent to open the doors to his intensely private atelier and allowed Teboul to capture on camera the means by which an idea sketched on paper is transformed into something dazzling. YVES SAINT LAURENT: 5, AVENUE MARCEAU, 755116 PARIS is a fly-on-the-wall documentary in the strictest sense. The camera is kept at a discrete distance as pieces-in-progress are presented to Saint Laurent in his studio for comment, then returned to the workshop. There a team of artisans perfect the cut of a collar, the drape of a swath of crepe or the bunch of a sleeve until it matches an ideal that exists only in the designer's mind. When Saint Laurent finally exclaims "It's a dream!", he means it quite literally. The process can be tedious, but this 90-minute film is oddly absorbing, even to those of us who couldn't tell organdy from organza if our lives depended on it.
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- Released: 2002
- Rating: NR
- Review: When Yves Saint Laurent announced in 2001 that he was retiring from the fashion house he'd first established 40 years earlier with his lover, Pierre Berge, the story made the front page of the New York Times. It was, after all, major news: It might be easy… (more)