Fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent is the subject of a film that has the glossy sheen of an impossibly expensive promotional video. Even the title feels like the restatement of brand identity. This is pure corporate self-endorsement, handsomely produced. Pierre Niney impersonates Saint Laurent (left): the delicate, shy, bespectacled aesthete who became the boy wonder of Paris fashion in the late 1950s. He has a nervous breakdown through overwork and hostile press reaction to his dismissive remarks about military service, but survives to found his own fashion house with the help of his lover and business partner, Pierre Bergé (Guillaume Gallienne), who supplies an incessant, elegaic voiceover. As the 60s and 70s wear on, Bergé puts on a concerned/disapproving face as Laurent risks his talent with destructive dabbling in drink, drugs, boys etc.
Two or three times we get the same absolutely unironic “catwalk” scene: the creations, the stunned murmurings from deeply impressed audiences, and then the triumph as the designer himself is at last (unwillingly) dragged into the spotlight for wild applause. If any of his catwalk shows went badly, we don’t get to see it. It is a bit baffling, and the film’s purpose is the reverent mystification of everything that avowedly makes YSL special. I longed for a commentary from Stanley Tucci’s wry character from The Devil Wears Prada.