Saint Laurent Blu-ray Review

     Actors: Louis Garrel, Jérémie Renier, Léa Seydoux, Gaspard Ulliel
  • Director: Bertrand Bonello
  • Producers: Christophe Lambert, Nicolas Altmayer, Eric Altmayer
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, AC-3, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: French, English
  • Audio Description: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: September 22, 2015
  • Run Time: 150 minutes

  •         One of two French biopics about Yves Saint Laurent in a single year, Saint Laurent plays out like a fashion show on film; the visual spectacle of flawlessly prepared outfits within decadent surroundings provide an ocean of surface with little depth to match it. Rather than a straightforward method of storytelling, Saint Laurent glides along the surface with style, skipping around the narrative with more flair than emotional connection. The ability to capture the essence of Laurent’s style on film, director Bertrand Bonello proves an understanding of fashion without giving the audience much of an opportunity to know the man behind it all.


            Yves Saint Laurent was a creative fashion icon who turned a haute couture label into an international success, leading to a long and memorable career. While much of the much of Saint Laurent’s narrative deals with the period between 1967 and 1976, there are also flashbacks to childhood and flash-forwards to his retirement. Though the non-linear approach may be clear to those already familiar with Laurent’s career and life, others will find little other than the decadent costuming and stylish cinematography to stay entertained. It isn’t so much that Saint Laurent is boring as it is sparse in storytelling, which can make the 150-minute running-time something of a chore.


            Gaspard Ulliel steals the show with his portrayal of Laurent, embodying the confidence and mannerisms to match style that is perfectly captured by costume designer Anaïs Romand (the sole winner for the film at the 2015 César Awards). Despite this excellent portrayal of the fashion icon, however, we are never given the opportunity to see below the surface in the screenplay by Bonello and Thomas Bidegain. Even worse than an unclear understanding of the man behind the fashion, is the lack of dramatic connection to the other characters in the film. 


    Betty Catroux (Aymeline Valade) and Loulou (Lea Seydoux) are models and muses for Laurent, though the extent of their relationship is never developed until they fade from the narrative without explanation. The one character that remains constant throughout the film is Pierre Bergé (Jérémie Renier), Laurent’s longtime lover and work companion, though even his relationship is treated as more of a crutch than an aspect of storytelling. His loyalty is the only aspect that sticks out, as the relationship is never fleshed out to contain any real emotional intimacy. There is more time dedicated to Laurent’s sexual relationship with model Jacques de Bauscher (Louis Garrel), which is also somewhat shallow in its representation.


    Jumping back and forth in time with more than one fashion show montage to break up the monotony of the dull character study, it quickly becomes clear that the clothing is still at the forefront of Laurent’s life story. The only thing to match the excess of the visuals is the over-indulgence of the protagonist, whether it is sexual pleasure or an addiction to drugs and alcohol. In one of the film’s more memorable sequences, Laurent’s pet dog overdoses on pills left lying around, only to be replaced by a look-alike dog the next day. Bonello cast his own dog in this role, bringing the pet home an honorary award at the Cannes Film Festival. While this is certainly an impressive performance, it is typically not a good sign when the pet dog has more personality than your main character.


            The Blu-ray release provides the visual spectacle in full high definition glory, which is clearly the most significant element of Bonello’s film. The special features include interviews with the cast and crew discussing the impact of Laurent, as well as the process of making this film. What surprises me is that there is no featurette for the costuming in Bonello’s film, as that seems to be the highlight in the filmmaking.


    Entertainment Value: 5/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 6.5/10

    Historical Significance:  6/10

    Special Features: 4.5/10

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