Yves Saint Laurent: The Last Collections
11th October 2019 9.00pm at Curzon Mayfair
12th October 2019 1.15pm at Ciné Lumière
13th October 2019 12.15pm at Vue West End
Behind the bold designs, the striking silhouettes and camera-strewn catwalks, the wheels of fashion are relentless. And keeping that wheel turning comes at a very human cost.
In the late 1990s, director Olivier Meyrou pointed his 16mm lens into the heart of haute couture, documenting the final collection of the father of prêt-à-porter fashion, Yves Saint-Laurent. However, this is not your average reverential retrospective, and only now, 20 years later, has the feature seen its official release. Yves Saint Laurent: The Last Collection is a moving work that glimpses the man beneath the glitz and glamour. The designer is the epitome of the tormented artist, brilliant but plagued by anxiety that he is not quite brilliant enough.
Meyrou examines the whole painstaking process of producing a show, from the unpicked stitches of the seamstresses to the democratic selection of models. The film pays tribute to the iconic figure’s pioneering preference for diversity and elevates the sharp lines of his revolutionary female suits. The complete antithesis of his partner Pierre Bergé, Saint-Laurent is largely mute, but experimental sound design by François-Eudes Chanfrault suggests the warring, whispering voices inside his head. At other points, the buzz of interference cancels out everything but a slow, steady heartbeat. Saint-Laurent has sacrificed everything for his art; he is alive only to create.
The use of both colour and black and white footage creates an interesting contradiction between immediacy and distance. This is a man who works in vivid colour but whose own personality has withdrawn in on itself, addled by drugs, alcohol and psychological affliction. Closeups of the designer reveal the toll of mental illness – often there is no smile on his face, only fatigue. Bergé explains to a journalist that his friend is “sleepwalking” in his own creative world, and that it is his job not to let him wake up. No explicit judgement is cast in this picture, but the comment sits uneasily, the power dynamic between them preying on our minds. Bergé often bulldozes through the frame – he stands at his partner’s shoulder, directs him – but whether like a guide or a puppeteer is never quite clear.
Saint-Laurent was a reclusive man, and remains an enigma even after the credits roll. The one thing that becomes tragically clear is that he was a martyr to his legacy, a man who gave everything in the name of fashion.
Yves Saint Laurent: The Last Collections is released in select cinemas on 1st November 2019.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2019 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.
Watch the trailer for Yves Saint Laurent: The Last Collections here: