Sunday, June 19, 2011

L'AMOUR FOU (MAD LOVE) (2011)

Directed by Pierre Thoretton


Where & When: Laemmle's Sunset 5, West Hollywood, CA.  June 15, 2011  7:00PM


"L'Amour Fou", a documentary about the professional and personal relationship between French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and his business partner, Pierre Berge, opens with a major turning point in each man's lives: First, with Saint Laurent, looking very frail and weary, at a press conference announcing that he was retiring from designing his clothing collection and next, Berge, composed as he always appears, speaking at the funeral of YSL about the great loss of the true love of his life.

Saint Laurent and Berge were together as a couple for over fifty years and while they certainly had their ups and downs (mostly due to YSL's depression and drug abuse) as many people do but it's quite clear that there was never a real option for them to not be together as they both needed each other to feel complete.

Yves Saint Laurent began his career in fashion as an assistant to Christan Dior while Pierre Berge was an acquaintance of the designer. After the death of  Mr.Dior in 1957,  the shy and reserved twenty-one year old became the head of the renowned fashion house. It was also at Dior's funeral that first sparked the beginning of the romantic relationship of YSL and Berge. His first collection for the label brought him international acclaim but his subsequent work was less successful and by 1961, YSl was fired from Dior.

With the help of Berge and an American investor, Saint Laurent started his own couture house and it became a huge success. YSl is credited for popularizing many fashion trends such as the tuxedo suit for women called, "Le Smoking", safari jackets for both genders and he became the first French designer to produce a full ready-to-wear line.

His new found fame introduced Saint Laurent to the jet-set life, where we see footage of him socializing at several parties, hanging with Andy Warhol in his studio and enjoying the company of the glamorous women who inspired his work such as Betty Catroux and Loulou de la Falaise who are both interviewed for the film. This was also the time when the fragile designer began to heavily use drugs and alcohol with his health slowly deteriorating before he died of brain cancer in 2008.

The film's other focus is on Berge's decision to auction off all of the fine art and home furnishings that the couple had acquired during their long relationship for their homes in Paris, Normandy and Marakkech, Morocco. We first see all of the antiquities in their proper place in each home before we then witness each item being carefully removed and packed up to be sent to the auction house, Christie's in Paris.  Berge reflects on how some of the pieces were found and the stories behind them with a hint of sadness behind his eyes although he insists that he's not nostalgic.

Mr. Berge is elegant, sophisticated and restrained, much like this documentary, and it's stated that the only time he would get upset was when problems arose that could possibly disrupt or interfere with the creative process of YSL. His number one priority was always Mr. Saint Laurent and this seemed to work well for both of them.

Mr. Berge only offers just a peek in to the opulent lifestyle of the couple while he manages to make it all seem fairly low-key such as to attend a party with Mick Jagger playing piano or deciding to purchase a Matisse or a Picasso and which of their homes to put them in but he never really reveals much of himself nor why he has actually decided to unload all of the possessions that made up the life he shared with his partner so we are only left with the glossy surface of the love story and not much deep soul-bearing.

Despite this, "L'amour Fou" still gives us enough of a tantalizing look in to their enchanted lives and a brilliant reminder of the talent of YSL to make this film well worth taking a look.