As elegant as its subject

L'Amour fou

on April 08, 2011 by Barbara Goslawski

Yves Saint Laurent L'Amour Fou offers a rare glimpse into the private life of one of the twentieth century's most elusive and celebrated artists. More than a maverick in fashion design, Yves Saint Laurent's influence on the design of his era was monumental. He was bold and daring in both vision but action: In the public eye, he became the very personification of chic; even in his private life he embodied this spirit. Focusing on the sale of Saint Laurent's formidable, personal art collection, director Pierre Thoretton creates a pertinent documentary tribute, affectionate without sentimentality. Akin to a stroll through a gallery, L'amour Fou is meditative and magically eye-opening. The film should appeal even to audiences not interested in fashion.

Saint Laurent dove in to the revolutionary spirit of his time. Mid-century culture was an invigoratingly glorious jumble that mixed high art, haute couture and the cult of celebrity. Shy and demure, there was just enough reticence around this trailblazer to uphold his mystique. After the infamous falling out with the House of Dior, his commercial success in his own House guaranteed a spot in the public eye.

But did he want that? His former personal and business partner Pierre Bergé recalls the more private life they shared. His narration is loving and patient as he recounts tales of a generous soul not above the occasional moment of pique. It seems Yves was less aloof than delicate, and Bergé obviously functioned as his emotional bedrock. Though blunt about the details of Yves' narcotic overindulgences, Bergé's musings nevertheless reveal a poignant love story, one in which two lives become decidedly intertwined.

How fitting then, that these two complex spirits joined forces to create a vast, majestic art collection in their own apartment. It was legendary and, in this film, the art reflects their intricate life together. This collection is large, brash and diverse, and after Saint Laurent's death Bergé decided to sell it all. Thoretton uses the sale of the couple's art collection to propel this journey into the past. Far too crowded for any one piece to shine, it is the breadth of the collection that's breathtaking. This is where Bergé and Thoretton function as mediators, one cataloguing with his lens while the other provides background. It's a treasure hunt, an excavation of epic proportions. More than just presenting this spectacle, the film deconstructs this collection into precious objects, each with its own significance.

Pieces are wrapped and removed in preparation for the estate sale. Now the empty spots appear. Now the interdependence of the individual pieces to the whole becomes clear. Touted as the auction of the century, the bidding is charged with emotion, laden with the knowledge that these were beloved possessions amassed by individuals. This is the end of an era, but also of a tale of true friends and kindred spirits. Beneath the glitz and glam of the fashion world lay this complex tale which Thoretton brings to life with the class and sophistication befitting its subject.

Distributor: IFC Films
Director: Pierre Thoretton
Producers: Kristina Larsen, Hugues Charbonneau
Genre: Documentary
Rating: Unrated
Running time: 98 min.
Release date: May 13 NY


Tags: Pierre Thoretton, Kristina Larsen, Hugues Charbonneau

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