Fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent rocked the fashion world of the 1960s and 70s, and he designed his image as carefully as he did any of his haute couture. When making a bio-pic about a legend like this, the trick is to say something that hasn’t been said before. That was the first thing I wanted to talk about with Bertrand Bonello andGaspard Ulliel when I spoke with them about SAINT LAURENT on April 26, 2015. As is only fitting for a film about someone obsessed with details, Bonello, too, fussed over the details, but not just of Saint Laurent’s private life, but also that of the clothing so carefully recreated for the film. In a daring move, Bonello includes an extended sequence dedicated to the art of commerce wherein Saint Laurent’s business partner and significant other, Pierre Bergé, hammers out the financial details of Saint Laurent’s fashion empire, and all but invents the idea of brand licensing. And he also wanted to explore the confluence of fashion and cinema, of fragility and strength. For Ulliel, it was a chance to find, and I love this phrase of his, truth through lies.
We went on to talk about Ulleil’s visit to Saint Laurent’s old apartment on Rue Babylon, how losing weight for the role was key to understanding his subject, the influence of Hitchcock’s VERTIGO on Bonello, and the unexpected vocal hazards of playing an icon. Bonello speaks first, then Ulliel.
SAINT LAURENT is an impressionistic portrait of the iconic fashion designer during the 1960s and 70s, when he was revolutionizing fashion by looking backward, and the fashion industry by pioneering the licensing of his name. Ulliel evokes Saint Laurent in both body and soul, reproducing the whispery voice, and wispy physique, and the intangible sense of pure creativity unfettered by the demands of business, the which was handled by his partner in life and business, Pierre Bergé. From the aetherial heights of haute couture, to the dark decadence of drug addiction and anonymous sex, the film is never a hagiography, but always an honest, compassionate look at a legend. It co-stars Jeremie Renier, Louis Garrel, Lea Seydoux, Amira Casar, and Helmut Berger as the older Saint Laurent. Bonello directed from script he co-wrote with Thomas Bidegain.