L’Amour Fou, the third documentary about the iconic fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, opens this week. While the fashion obsessed will fall easy, the rest of us will get a glimpse into two types of loves, the love of art, and the love between the pioneering designer and his longtime partner (in business and in romance), Pierre Berge.
Once the CEO of Saint Laurent’s fashion house, as well as Saint Laurent’s lifelong confidant, Berge came across as the pragmatic one, doing what needed to be done to keep the fashion house, and his lover alive.
Saint Laurent, on the other hand, fell in perfectly into our vision of tortured aesthete, unable to do anything except create and self destruct. Though this is likely how it happened, it felt a little too much like we were participating in the “mad genius” trope. While we were thrilled to see video footage of the notoriously shy Saint Laurent, as well as his fashion shows, we yearned to see more of the idiosyncrasies and struggles of the kind eyed, impish designer. Though Berge acknowledges his lover’s battle with addiction, the film skirts over some of the lowlights and controversies of Saint Laurent’s illustrious career.
Where the film truly shines is in its telling of another story, that of the Berge-Saint Laurent art collection. From Paris, to Marrakech, to the French countryside, we are swept up by the sheer volume and beauty of art that the men acquired. And we feel sadness (both for Berge and ourselves) when we see these priceless works sold at auction after Saint Laurent’s death.
Muses and friends, Betty Catroux and Loulou de la Falaise make appearances but in the end it’s all about Berge and the YSL fantasy. His desire to uphold the legacy of both his partner and the fashion house he worked tirelessly to support is a given, but this point of view does leave us with a few more questions than answers.
If you go into L’Amour Fou expecting the straight story of Yves Saint Laurent, you may be a tad disappointed–however, this is more than made up for by its captivating love story and no shortage of design porn.