Created by French director Bertrand Bonello (On War, House of Tolerance) Saint Laurent charts the career and life of Yves Saint Laurent, one of the premier names in the world of fashion. Now, I do not know a single thing about fashion, but that’s not a problem because that is not what the movie is about. Rather, it is about Yves’s meandering life, in its ups and downs and twists and turns. He is an alcoholic, a drug addict, somewhat eccentric, and very gay, all of which make his life difficult in 1960s and 70s France. Unlike the vast majority of biopics, Saint Laurent is unafraid to show Yves in an unflattering light; at one point he nearly murders his partner by smashing his head with a marble bust. This makes for a much more engaging film than standard biographical fare, as the audience is left to make up their mind as to whether Yves is a tortured genius or just very tortured.
Fittingly for a film about a fashion icon, this film is visually stunning. I haven’t seen a film packed with this much bright, sometimes gaudy colors since the last Wes Anderson film I saw. Yves’ dresses and other assorted outfits are the centerpiece of the ocular festival, but it is by no means limited to that; the film includes everything from decked-out runway shows to gay orgies and the sands of Marrakech (Yves’ boyhood home). In an era filled with every hue of brown and shade of grey imaginable (because, you know, gray and brown are ‘realistic’ colors) Saint Laurent sticks out like a flamboyant purple thumb. Honestly, it’s actually very refreshing.
Anchored by Gaspard Ulliel’s (Hannibal Rising) performance in the titular role, Saint Laurent is a biopic which actually has the courage to break out of the mold of conformity and tradition and manage to try something different. Just like its namesake, it is colorful, eccentric, and more than a little ambiguous. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but for those looking for a little variety, you can’t go wrong with Saint Laurent.