Like Coco Before Chanel, this French designer biopic is far too respectful of its subject to come to life properly as a movie. It's gorgeous to look at, and features striking performances and a strong central story. But filmmaker Jalil Lespert maintains a too-worthy tone that makes the storyline drag badly, even though there's a strikingly intriguing relationship at the centre.
The film picks up the story of Yves Saint Laurent (Pierre Niney) in the 1950s, when the 21-year-old hotshot is shaking up Paris as a designer for Christian Dior. When military service costs him his job and shakes his mental health, his lover Pierre Berge (Guillaume Gallienne) steps in and becomes his professional partner, helping him establish YSL as an iconic brand. Over the decades Yves reinvents fashion by combining classic looks with imaginative flourishes. As he falls into drugs and alcohol to cope with the overpowering expectations, it's Pierre who keeps him going and manages the company to global powerhouse status. Although outside liaisons put a strain on their personal relationship.
Lespert does a remarkable job at capturing Saint Laurent's visual aesthetic, filling the screen with bold colours, sleek lines and achingly beautiful clothes. The immaculately recreated catwalk shows are stunning, while the raucously staged parties are packed with actors playing iconic figures. But all of these people are little more than bursts of colour in an otherwise glum movie.
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What makes Nathalie different than your run of the mill tale of infidelity is what Catherine decides to do after receiving this news. She frets a bit about her husband, but instead of tossing him out or simply shrugging and getting on with things, she's left uneasy, pining with curiosity. Fortunately, there's a house of ill repute just around the corner from her office, so Catherine decides to do a little field research on what makes men do these sorts of things. Popping into the "private club," all tacky red décor and overly made-up girls, Catherine drinks whiskey straight and gets to know the prettiest girl in the joint, Marlène (Emmanuelle Béart).
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You better damn well like plates if you're going to suffer through the three hours of Les Destinées, an exhausting family drama about a porcelain empire and just as hard a flick as its subject matter.
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This Sade (Daniel Auteuil) is no less seductively charismatic than Rush was, but he has less to do, as Sade chooses to focus more attention on the cultural climate than any specific, provocative interaction between characters. Rush was allowed more leeway to display range from torment to arrogance while Auteuil's Sade is a bit too impervious to his surroundings. What they do both achieve is providing an easy attraction. Neither have the stereotypically sexual physique the average woman clambers for, but their wit and intelligence are arousing. The acting isn't necessarily better in the English counterpart, but there is more weight given to individual motivation so that you're more attuned to personal struggles in the progressively oppressive Napoleonic era.
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