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Bertrand Bonello’s Saint Laurent

Bertrand Bonello, Saint Laurent, 2014, 35 mm, color, sound, 150 minutes. Loulou de la Falaise (Léa Seydoux), Yves Saint Laurent (Gaspard Ulliel), and Betty Catroux (Aymeline Valade). Photo: Carole Bethuel.

BEYOND MERELY RECAPITULATING the high and low points of a celebrated life, Bertrand Bonello’s Saint Laurent distills a mood and a milieu. This heady, sinuous biopic of Yves Saint Laurent (1936–2008), arguably the greatest couturier of the second half of the twentieth century, forgoes the tedious birth-to-death arc found in so many films of the genre to focus instead on the years 1967 to 1977. The time frame may be restricted, but the decade depicted was marked by YSL’s most storied excesses, whether in the atelier, on the runway, at the discotheque—or at the orgy. Bonello, who cowrote Saint Laurent’s script with Thomas Bidegain, honors his subject’s design genius and dissipation equally, without banalizing either.

That Bonello has found ways to invigorate material rehearsed several times before only adds to his project’s singularity. Saint Laurent is the fifth feature-length

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