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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Saint Laurent (2015)


Fashion’s cool and all, but partying is probably better.

Yves Saint Laurent (Gaspard Ulliel) has become synonymous with the fashion world. However, he also had his fair share of personal and professional issues that kept him away from being a person people would want to be around and appreciate. Through many years of his life, we see as Yves goes through all sorts of love-partners, as well as co-workers, most of whom either despise, or adore him. Either way, people know that Yves has a certain style that the people want and because of this, everybody is willing to stick with all of his odd, almost preposterous idiosyncrasies. All of this is chronicled at the time during his life from 1967 to 1976, when everybody was at his beck and call, yet, so little people actually loved or cared for him and were more concerned with milking the cash cow for as long as they could. Yves knew this, however, and it’s one of the main reasons why he would continue to break away from the rest of society for so long throughout his life.

Strike a pose!

Strike a pose!

I’m all for a biopic not standing by conventional route we tend to see with a biopic, or a story about a certain famous person in which there achievements are told through something as deep and meaningful as a Wikipedia entry. However, Saint Laurent is the kind of pretentious piece of film making that makes me wish more movies did follow a structure of some sorts, wherein we understood and learned more about the biopic subjects, and not just follow its own rhythm and pattern. After all, there is something to be said for a movie that does what it wants, when it wants, and plays by its own rules, when its subject did the same exact thing in real life, but really, there could have been so much more done here had some rules been followed.

Actually, scratch that. A lot of rules.

See, what director Bertrand Bonello does here is that he focuses on one time in the life of Yves Saint Laurent that may have been the most successful, as well as exciting, but he doesn’t really show how or why. Instead, the movie just more or less shows us that Laurent tended to be a bit of a perfectionist, something of a drama queen, and a generally closed-off human being who didn’t really treat those who loved him or worked with him, to the best of his ability. In fact, there’s one key scene in which an employee of Laurent’s tells him that she needs to get an abortion and doesn’t have the money for it. Laurent gives her the money and tells her that she’ll always have a place to work, except that, moments later, he’s seen at a dinner table talking about how he wants that employee fired.

If anything, this scene not only tells you everything you need to know about Laurent, but is perhaps the only bit of insight the movie ever actually gives us. Other than that, we just get a bunch of scenes where Laurent slowly pans around, looks at fancy clothes, touches his chin, engage in promiscuous sex, do drugs, drink, dance, party, and most of all, be an a-hole to everyone around him. That’s pretty much all we get to see about Laurent here and while it’s nice to see a biopic that doesn’t necessarily set out to glamorize its subject, it would have also been nice to see more about him that made this movie worth watching in the first place.

And then, of course, there’s the pace.

I'd party with her. Not him.

I’d party with her. Not him.

Saint Laurent meanders so much, for so long, that by the time the two-and-a-half-hour run-time had hit its limit, I got up out of my seat, took a walk, took a shower, and then, continued on with my watching. Rather than getting started on another movie/show right off the bat as soon as it ended, instead, I had to do something else more productive with my time, as well as get past the fact that I wasted so much time with a movie that seemed to go hardly anywhere from the very start. And while there’s no issue with a movie taking its time, when it turns out to be very clear that the movie has no set destination in mind, after awhile, all of the waddling around can get to be a bit of a pain.

None of this is particularly any of the cast’s problems, either. Basically, they’re trying their absolute hardest to make sense of what’s going on and just how exactly they can make things better. Gaspard Ulliel looks great as Laurent, but doesn’t really get a chance to dive deep into the inner-soul of what made Laurent such a tragic, rather misunderstood figure. We see him do a lot of crying and whining, but that’s not enough to really have us see him for all that he was when it came to not just being a fashion-designer, but also a human being.

In fact, it’s those around him who are probably the most humanized and understood. Jérémie Renier’s Pierre Bergé constantly wants to be there for Laurent no matter how hard times between the two get, but also can’t seem to help himself from sponging off of the goods, too; Louis Garrel’s Jacques de Bascher may seem like he’s just there for the sex with Laurent, but really wants something loving and caring, too; and Léa Seydoux’s Loulou de la Falaise may not go all that deeper than just being “the party girl”, but hey, it was nice to see her around. Wish there was more for each of these talented actors to do, but for what it’s worth, it was nice to see them at least try in a movie that didn’t seem to care for them, or anything else.

It just wanted to be cool and stylish, sort of like its subject.

Consensus: Saint Laurent may daringly play by its own rules, it still doesn’t offer enough glimpses of heart, humanity, or even insight into its subject, but instead, just shows him as a guy who did some stuff and that’s about it.

2 / 10

Just chillin'.

Just chillin’.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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One response to “Saint Laurent (2015)

  1. parparvan February 18, 2016 at 12:29 am

    Excellent, excellent post! I watched this movie last year and I really enjoyed the movie. Firstly, I have to say fashion is cool and all but it also ADDS to partying, LOL 😉

    This movie portrayed the exact reasons why anyone who works in the fashion industry always says that it is not as glamourous as it seems. I would agree with you that the film seemingly had no real purpose and it was not a traditional biopic by any means.

    With that said, I have also watched a a YSL biopic that followed all the rules you mentioned and while a lot more information was obtained, it was still a little bland.

    In my opinion Bertrand Bonello maintained what we know as a “pointless” movie on purpose. As most french films do, this movie goes against all the Hollywood Formulas we are use to seeing and much like what you said the purposeful repetition of the empty industry, work, partying and drug culture that followed YSL really gets to you after a while as a viewer.

    I have noticed that a lot of french films do these kinds of movies and I believe it’s part of the process of getting the audience to become use to a story in which there is no beginning or a clear end or even a meaningful msg to takeaway. This makes the movie much more real and I actually appreciated that.

    I walked away from the movie with a profound sadness for YSL because to live that life, as glamorous as it seemed at times, would be depressing.

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