Review: Celebration Yves Saint Laurent

The man behind the iconic Parisian fashion house 

By Narelle Wood

Celebration: Yves Saint Laurent, directed and written by Olivier Meyrou, is a behind the scenes exploration of Yves Saint Laurent, the man and the Parisian fashion house.

There is no, one discernable narrative. Filmed over a period between 1998 and 2001, the documentary combines snippets of film from interviews with Saint Laurent, scenes from fashion shows, fittings, the workshops inside the fashion house and some more personal scenes of Saint Laurent at work and at home. There is some fascinating footage from the many vaults containing the vast array of collections spanning the 40-year career, as well as brief glimpses at the monumental YSL fashion show that preceded the 1998 World Cup soccer final, bringing Haute Couture to the television and millions of people.

Yves Saint Laurent is depicted as a fragile recluse, whose creativity and vision took both a personal and physical toll. Nevertheless, many he worked with comment that his contributions to fashion, his sharp eye and attention to detail never wavered. Pierre Bergé, carefully manages Saint Laurent and it’s perhaps not a surprise that he, until recently, suppressed the film’s release. At times almost tyrannical in his control, it is clear that Bergé was, and perhaps still is, fiercely protective of Saint Laurent and the brand they built.

The footage was taken nearly 20 years ago, and at permission to release the film in 2016, Meyrou revisited the film, to produce, what at times feels disjointed, documentary. However, like the couture the film is capturing, there are small threads that carefully and purposefully hang the overall narrative together. Black and white footage of Saint Laurent is juxtaposed with the more colourful and bustling world of the workshop and fashion shows. The soundtrack is at times disruptive and unsettling, but it calls your attention to what is happening on screen. There is no narration, only the conversations of the documentary’s subjects that are captured, often interrupted and unfinished. Meyrou’s documentary seems to be void of an agenda, except to immerse his audience in the everyday world of fashion designed and worn by very few.

I was left still not knowing very much about Yves Saint Laurent himself, perhaps with the exception of his penchant for French bulldogs. I was, however, left with a new appreciation for the work and accomplishments of Yves Saint Laurent and the people who brought his vision to life.

Celebration: Yves Saint Laurent screens 5 March – 10 April at selected Palace Cinemas across Australia as part of the 30th Alliance Française French Film Festival. Tickets can be purchased online.