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Marshall Fine

Marshall Fine

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HuffPost Review: L'Amour Fou

Posted: 05/17/11 09:37 AM ET

I think fashion is silly. Not just silly -- ridiculous. When it comes to Fashion Week and all the hoopla surrounding it, I'm of the Hans Christian Anderson school: It's all The Emperor's New Clothes.

So I found the clothing and design part of L'amour fou, an intriguing documentary about Yves Saint Laurent and his longtime partner Pierre Berge that's now in limited release, to be less interesting than filmmaker Pierre Thoretton's framing device: Berge's oversight of the disposal of his and Saint Laurent's massive collection of art and antiques and the story of Saint Laurent's struggles over the years with depression, alcohol and drugs.

Well, OK -- there were a handful of fashions that made me think: I see where this became something that women everywhere wore. More often, I thought what I always think when I see the runway circus at a fashion show: Who would ever actually wear that crap?

Yes, I know -- it's not fashion, it's art. That doesn't mean there's not a level of charlatanism involved or that parts of the press and fashion world aren't being hoodwinked into touting this silliness as somehow relevant to people's lives.

So what makes Thoretton's documentary interesting is less the clothes than the relationship between Berge and Saint Laurent -- as a lover, a partner and the guiding business mind behind Saint Laurent's rise to the top of the fashion world. It's a relationship that seems both mutually beneficial and mutually fulfilling.

Still, the archival footage is pretty standard stuff. What's particularly compelling is the footage Thoretton shot of Berge surveying the massive collection he and Saint Laurent accumulated in a number of houses and apartments in France. He speaks very pragmatically, noting that, to him, they are simply things, not sources of sentimental value. Saint Laurent, he notes, could never have packed them all up and shipped them off to an auction house. But Berge does it without batting an eye.

Then he watches as they're auctioned off for literally millions of dollars and euros -- one after another. It's testament to their taste, to their vision and to their wealth. Berge emerges as a caring but unsentimental man whose life obviously has changed, now that Saint Laurent is dead.

If anything, his seemingly serene lack of complicated emotions explains how he kept the relationship with the turbulent, depressive Saint Laurent going for almost 50 years. And that seems the opposite of what the title of L'amour fou means, which is an obsessive passion.

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