Comédie Française actor Pierre Niney (It Boy) is sensational in this surprisingly frank ‘authorised’ biopic of the fashion designer who took over from Christian Dior at 21 and eventually established his own enduring brand.
A man who needs no introduction. And yet... Officially sanctioned by Pierre Bergé, Saint Laurent’s partner in love and business for almost fifty years, this biopic might have focussed on the legendary designer’s glory days alone. These we see, but we also witness this fragile, conflicted genius – Bergé reputedly said that Saint Laurent ‘was born with a nervous breakdown’ – succumb to darker demons and become all the more human for them. He is portrayed – or rather, lived – in a phenomenal performance by Pierre Niney (It Boy). Narrated by Bergé (Guillaume Gallienne, superb), the film spans 20 years, from Saint Laurent’s arrival at Dior, a fashion house he would go on to direct when barely 21 years old, to the founding of his own YSL label; from dazzling inspiration to the debilitating strain of designing four collections a year. (The clothes are Saint Laurent originals.) From domestic splendour to decadent drug-fuelled partying and cruising in the night shadows; from Paris to Morocco, Jalil Lespert’s intimate film is a story of love, passion, creativity, perfectionism, and an artist who, in transforming fashion – and the promotion of it – left his mark on the 20th century. — Sandra Reid