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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