L’amour Fou

Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé

“Fashion dies but style remains.”- Yves Saint Laurent

Those of you with an interest in fashion have surely already seen the wonderful documentary released in 2010 about Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé called L’amour Fou. I was a bit late to the party and only managed to rent it last weekend, but it was so beautiful that I ended up watching it twice.

L’amour Fou is not just a documentary about Saint Laurent and fashion, it’s a phenomenal love story. Pierre Bergé was Yves Saint Laurent’s lover, friend and business partner for fifty years and it was Berge who closed Yves’ eyes when he died. The film opens with an eloquent speech given by Saint Laurent in 2002 announcing his retirement and is then framed around the 2009 Christie’s auction of Saint Laurent and Bergé’s extensive art collection which they had amassed over decades.

Pierre Bergé is the primary interviewee in the film and certainly he is the person who knew Yves best. He discusses Saint Laurent’s influence on fashion, his career, his addictions and crippling depression, and his passions. In addition two of Yves’ favourite muses, Betty Catroux and Loulou de la Falaise, are interviewed providing a female viewpoint. Saint Laurent was a revolutionary designer in many ways; of course most famously for Le Smoking, now a staple in many women’s wardrobes, but he was also the first couturier to do a prêt-à-porter line which is now almost mandatory for designers. In later years he was described as “fashion for woman of a certain age”, i.e. safe and not boundary breaking, however in this way I feel he was the same as many artists: after years of experimentation and improvisation they find a challenge in perfecting a classic expression of their art.

There are many scenes of Bergé and Saint Laurent’s residences prior to them being stripped for the auction and they truly are breathtaking. In fact it is this that made me watch the documentary twice, the second time pausing as the camera panned over the beautiful interiors. Although I wondered how anyone could part with such gorgeous objects and paintings, many of which are bound to have significant memories attached to them, Bergé says that the loss of Yves, his great love, is worse than the loss of the artifacts of the life they built together.

And what a collection it was, containing Brâncuși sculpture (later sold on camera at auction for €26 million), West African primitive sculpture, furniture by Eileen Gray, paintings by Dali, Duchamp, Picasso, Matisse, Braque and Mondrian amongst many others. The sale raised €373,935,500, almost double its estimate, and the proceeds went towards AIDS charities in France.

The documentary is directed by Pierre Thoretton and has a beautiful piano score by Come Aguiar. It’s a stunning film and one to watch if you have any interest in art or fashion.

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