Yves Saint Laurent’s ‘L’Amour Fou’

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Photo courtesy of IFC Films

Yves Saint Laurent in the new film L’Amour Fou from IFC

If you loved Matt Tyrnauer’s documentary Valentino: The Last Emperor, R.J. Cutler’s Vogue doc The September Issue, and Richard Press’s Bill Cunningham New York, here’s one more reason to hit the theater: L’Amour Fou, director Pierre Thoretton’s film about Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé.

The film, which opens in May, was started six months after the June 2008 death of Yves Saint Laurent, and though the finished product follows his life, work and relationship with Bergé, it was originally intended to be quite different.

“The initial project was on their houses and home collection,” Thoretton, calling it “very beautiful but completely boring,” explained in a Q&A following a screening on Tuesday.

While the couple’s homes and art collection, which included pieces by the likes of Picasso, Matisse, Brancusi, Goya, Warhol, and countless more, is certainly a fascinating story on its own—particularly the 2009 Christie’s auction of the items, which brought in over $483,000,000 total and broke the world-record sum for an auctioned private collection—the frankness with which Bergé remembers his partner and their time together brings a whole new light to the objets d’art of their past.

“From the point he said yes, the work was easy—almost too easy,” Thoretton said of Bergé’s participation in the documentary. “When you bring someone into a documentary team, it can be intimidating, but he has a lot of experience with it.”

ysl film l'amour fou
Photo courtesy of IFC Films
Yves Saint Laurent, in the new film L’Amour Fou from IFC

The film, which begins with a scene of the press conference where Saint Laurent announced his retirement from designing, is driven by Bergé’s memories, though other friends of Saint Laurent, like Betty Catroux and Loulou de la Falaise, also contribute. Saint Laurent is shown as painfully shy, incredibly talented (he succeeded Christian Dior at age 21 and opened his own house just a few years later), and clinically depressed, but also as someone with a real love for the work that made him famous.

Of course, his art collection was also a passion, which came through clearly in his now-iconic Mondrian dress from 1965. “It’s hard for me to know if fashion influenced his objects or if his objects influenced his designs,” said Thoretton, “but there was definitely a flow between them.”

So how could Bergé part with the collection? “The collection is a result of their life together; it wasn’t an investment,” the director said. “To be living amongst objects [like that] kept bringing him back to memories that are difficult to live with … he was and still is very affected [by Saint Laurent’s death].”

“I will be present at my collection’s funeral; it’s the will to control everything until the end,” says Bergé in the film, speaking of the auction. “And I’m selling because it was an entirely mixed oeuvre, composed of blended tastes. So now, you’ll understand that it no longer means anything. The works will fly away like birds and find some place to perch. I find that to be beautiful.”

L’Amour Fou opens in New York on May 13 at the IFC Center.