Yves Saint Laurent is the first of two accounts of the late fashion designer's life to hit the big screen this year, starring dead-ringer Pierre Niney in the central role.
This is the authorised portrait of the revered designer, which was made with the blessing and cooperation of his longtime romantic and business partner Pierre Bergé, while Bertrand Bonello’s version, Saint Laurent, will be released in October.
Here, director Jaspil Lespert's handsome but unoriginal treatment focuses on a twenty-year period of the revered designer's life – hinging on his tumultuous relationship with Bergé (Guillaume Gallienne).
We see Yves progress from a painfully shy but ambitious young man to head designer at Dior at just 21 following Christian Dior's death. After being conscripted to the French Army during the Algerian War of Independence he suffers a mental breakdown and is fired from Dior, before setting up his own fashion house with Bergé.
However, his immersion in the fashion industry comes at a high personal cost, as the constant pressure of delivering haute couture and ready-to-wear collections leads to drug and alcohol addiction.
Niney's pitch-perfect performance saves this uninspired biographical film from total disappointment. He inhabits the role perfectly, from Yves' mannerisms, facial tics, delicate vocal delivery and carefully considered appearance. Gallienne puts in a less showy but equally noteworthy performance as his loyal and protective partner, while Charlotte Lebon stuns as early Yves muse Victoire Doutreleau.
The other main star of the film, is naturally enough, the costume design, which features many genuine articles from the Dior and Yves Saint Laurent archives, while other key pieces have been lovingly reproduced.
Despite the lush cinematography, beautiful sets and strong acting, there is a distinct feeling that Yves Saint Laurent barely scratches beneath the surface of the difficult but genius designer.