L’Amour Fou (2011) – Documentary Retroview

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A Film of Rememberances

Yves Saint-Laurent was a talented and troubled man, and nobody knew him better than his longtime business partner and lover, Pierre Berge. Interviewed after Saint-Laurent’s death for L’Amour Fou, Berge tells all — about the brilliant and beloved designer’s reaction to fame and to failure, about his shyness and deep depressions, about his psychotic episodes and seeking seclusion. He also reveals his own ongoing sadness and sense of loss at the death of his longtime lover and business partner. His reflections are intimate and moving.

Witnessing History

Berge’s reflections cover the more than half a century during which Saint Laurent and he, the industrialist who became the designer’s business partner, reigned supreme in the world of fashion. Intercut with Berge’s on camera reminiscences are clips of archival footage showing Berge and Saint-Laurent at memorable public events and private moments during their relationship, from the time they met in 1958 to the scene of Saint-Laurent’s funeral and memorial in 2008.

Saint-Laurent’s collections are shown in clips of his fashion shows and of a very spectacular exhibit held in tribute to him. It’s interesting to see the extent of Saint-Laurent’s influence, which grew with the addition of perfume and home decor items to his haute couture and ready to wear product base. There are also political overtones, with coverage of Chinese objections to the name ‘Opium’ being assigned to Saint-Laurent’s perfume, comments by the controversial French Cultural Minister, Jack Lang, and changes in the political and social ambience caused by shifts of government.

Collection and Collectors

Saint-Laurent and Berge were art and antiques collectors, with classic masterpieces and more modern works by Brancusi and James Ensor, among others, displayed in their home. Their collection is in focus, as the camera moves slowly through the rooms of their lavishly decorated home, stopping to view one fine objet d’art after another. The collection cataloging culminates in an auction held at Christies. Shots of auction action are intercut with closeups of Berge’s face expressing calm resolve that the physical trappings of his relationship with Saint-Laurent are leaving his realm and palpable satisfaction that winning bids are adding up to millions of Euros.

The documentary is a biographical tribute to Saint-Laurent and his accomplishments, and his long partnership. But, told primarily from the perspective of a grieving Berge, it’s sadder than it is celebratory.

Socialites and celebrities also show up in archival footage and on camera interviews, giving the documentary greater scope. That and the lengthy period covered, turn the film into a fascinating profile of Saint-Laurent’s times, as well as of the man, himself.

Film Details:

Title: L’Amour Fou
Director: Pierre Thoretton
Release Date: May 13, 2011 (limited U.S. theatrical release)
Running Time: 98 mins.
Parents Advisory: content advisory for patents.
Locations: Paris, French countryside, North Africa and elsewhere.
Language: French, with English subtitles
Distribution: IFC Films (US Theatrical)

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