Tuesday, May 05, 2015

“Saint Laurent”– Movie Review



This week, I attended a New York Times Film Club screening of “Saint Laurent”, a drama starring Gaspard Ulliel in the title role as noted fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. 


As Yves Saint Laurent’s success in the fashion world increases, his personal life spins out of control – but will his dangerous lifestyle choices threaten his career or his life?


From the mid-1960’s to the mid-1970’s, couturier Yves Saint Laurent (Ulliel) commanded the attention of the fashion industry with his bold, feminine designs that not only made women feel beautiful, but also more glamorous and confident as well.  Despite achieving a level of success beyond his wildest dreams, Saint Laurent was still feeling empty; his dedication to work resulted in him having precious little in the way of a personal life.  As a result, in those all-too-rare moments when he found himself able to break away from his office, Saint Laurent wound up going way overboard when it came to partying.

Although having both a personal and professional relationship with his companion Pierre (Jérémie Renier), Saint Laurent’s lust was insatiable; he frequently found himself prowling the streets at night in search of male prostitutes.  Eventually, he landed a more meaningful relationship with Jacques (Louis Garrel), a striking model who dragged the designer into increasingly dark areas of his life – places which Saint Laurent apparently went rather willingly, despite protests from Pierre and investors in their company who grew concerned about the fashionista’s well-being. 

In Saint Laurent’s later years, he was very much a loner, largely having been abandoned by his friends and former colleagues.  Living in an ornate home with only his pet dog to keep him company, Saint Laurent became a chain-smoker only able to hold a conversation with his domestics.  He spent much of his days and nights watching old movies on television and frequently reminiscing about his glory days; by this time, he has long since alienated Pierre, who remained connected to the business, but missed Jacques, who may have been his one true love.  With little left to keep him engaged post-retirement, Saint Laurent was eventually rescued by a long-overdue death. 


While watching “Saint Laurent”, one can’t help but wondering that if the movie were to return to the editing room to have its scenes haphazardly rearranged in any random order, would anyone notice the difference?  Sadly, it appears unlikely – although another edit of the film is greatly in order; at two and a half hours in length, it is far too long, especially considering that the motion picture doesn’t have much in the way of a plot.  From a standpoint of dramatic narrative, it is just about as flat as a line in the electrocardiogram of an expired hospital patient – appropriate, since the motion picture is essentially DOA.  There is very little that draws viewers into the man’s story, aside from the fact that he’s famous and successful (which turns out to be not quite enough to maintain interest). 

Since there’s very little of a strong narrative thread in “Saint Laurent”, there’s no feeling of forward momentum to the story.  This results in a disastrous third act, which is where the wheels completely come off the movie (although they were never that securely fastened in the first place).  In this last portion of the film, Saint Laurent is seen largely as an elderly man whose moments of partial lucidity are occasionally interrupted by flashbacks that seem almost like non-sequiturs (but arguably, the scenes of Saint Laurent as an old man could be considered non-sequiturs as well). 

During this screening, there appeared to be quite a few people who bailed out – and who could blame them?  A long movie with little story about a dangerously hedonistic lunatic who appears to have little regard for those around him, Saint Laurent the character is hardly hero material.  At the end of the film, two women exiting the theater were heard discussing “Saint Laurent”; one said, “I thought the movie was ending 15 minutes ago”.  “It should have”, responded her friend.  In fact, it probably should’ve wrapped up a good deal sooner than that. 

Saint Laurent (2014) on IMDb

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