Monday, July 21, 2014

Yves Saint Laurent on screen

The Film Forum has seen fit to extend the  movie about Yves Saint Laurent probably because so many of us didn't get around to seeing it.  And thank God!  Filmed in a luxurious state of mind, about a luxurious young man who became a luxury brand, Yves Saint Laurent comes onto the screen as a visual delight.  And. Then. Some. Tracking early YSL through the days of becoming the newly appointed big boss at Christian Dior after the Maestro dies, to the almost end, this film warrants being seen again, and then again.  Take it from several points of view: the visuals, the sets, the actors, the direction, and, of course, the costumes.  Although they are not really costumes per se, but the entitled inspirational collections of a young man's vision, the clothing offers time and again fresh insights behind the scenes of a designer's life.  Not in a tawdry sense, but depicted in a matter of fact life -in -the -trenches way.  Drugs, sex, backstory, ego.  All of the above do not over ride the reality of this film: Yves Saint Laurent was a genius.  And for those in the fashion world, the fact that the quirks come with that title is a given.  Perhaps to the newest fans of fashion out there, the hedonistic and indulgent world of the 1970's and 1980's is news.  To those who lived the time, the mindset, and the mood, it's a flashback . The lush quality of M. Saint Laurent's thinking process is embellished by placing us within their homes, not just within the confines of the atelier.  Pierre Berge, the keeper of the flame (and the other driving character depicted so ably in the film) gave his consultation and stamp of approval, as well as allowing many of the archived original haute couture pieces from the Maison  to be featured in the film  .  Given the white glove treatment, to be sure,  it is said that the garments were cast first,  followed by the models who filled in the dresses.  An uncanny, but logical way of casting some of the iconic models of the era.
The delicate phraseology of the young Saint Laurent is part of his persona.  He seemed to look at everything in a telescoped fashion, focused, with subtitles.  His business life was managed by Pierre Berge, but those who loved him could not control the uncontrollable.  One of the fascinating feats that this film accomplishes underlines the gentle soul that was Yves Saint Laurent.  In spite of the whirlwind of fashion , fame and backstory that surrounds a supremely successful man such as himself, his ability to hone in on a point of design is evident.  From the first shot of the young man slicing into a bolt of silk and draping it under the watchful gaze of Christian Dior himself, to the luxe collections he produces one after another, the director frames this ability with brilliance.  In those moments of calm, found throughout the film here and there, we can commune with the mind of YSL, and pause for one slice of time, before plunging back into the fray.
Color and personae is what this film is all about.  If you're a designer, you'll know this world.  If you're a design student, see it now.  If you're a design teacher, see it to learn more about methodology, atelier activity and results.  And for the rest of the world: take it all with a grain of salt, or a teaspoon of sugar. Films of this ilk are much loved in the world of fashion, and will long serve as standard bearers for the rarified world of haute couture .

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