"I'm Yves Saint Laurent," the designer declares, as he asks his latest muse to model for him in a packed nightclub. By the time the audience reaches that simple utterance in the new Yves Saint Laurent biopic, aptly titled "Yves Saint Laurent," they are well aware of the power and struggle behind the humble(ish) name drop.
Most people have probably heard the designer's name, but less are likely to know about his life's struggles. That could all change with this film, which stars acclaimed French actors Pierre Niney and Guillaume Gallienne and had its U.S. premiere last week.
The resemblance between real-life Saint Laurent and Niney are astounding, as is the way the Frenchman so completely embodies the essence of the designer and his struggles with substance abuse, relationships and his collections. From the 1950s well into the '70s, we see Saint Laurent "transform into one of the most important names in haute couture."
The director, Jalil Lespert, captures the troubled spirit of Saint Laurent so well that you want to shake him, and yet ultimately root for the tortured designer on his journey to creating one of the most recognized brands in fashion. Though you may think that Laurent's work as a designer takes center stage in the film, it's actually his relationships, travels, and torrid life experiences which guide the audience.
By the end of the film you are left wanting to know more about Saint Laurent's training, his relationship with his mother, and more about how (and if) he ever overcame his demons. While those questions are never quite answered (there are, after all, biographies and numerous articles devoted to the subjects), the movie still feels complete.
The resounding stillness at the end of the film leaves you with a sense of awe and appreciation -- accepting Saint Laurent and his manic depression as something that fueled his work and made him a wunderkind. The movie will be opening to a limited release on June 25 in the U.S.; whether you're a fashionista, Francophile or just in the mood for an entertaining tale, the life of Saint Laurent remains just as captivating. As Yves' partner of 50 years, Pierre Bergé, says in the film: "You were only happy twice a year -- in the spring and in the fall." There is no doubt that after seeing this portrayal of himself, YSL would have smiled this summer.