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All of Yves Saint-Laurent's Pretty Things in L'amour fou

L’amour fou opens with unbroken footage from designer Yves Saint-Laurent’s 2002 speech announcing his retirement from fashion, after 40-plus years at the helm of the massively important label bearing his name. It’s a stunning performance, flowing from naked confessional (“I have known the false friends of tranquilizers . . . and emerged dazzled but sober”) to shameless indulgence (bragging about his impact on female dress, portentously quoting Rimbaud). As a stage-managed but not quite self-aware study in contradictions, the address feels like a more revealing document of Saint-Laurent—a prodigy who took over the House of Dior at 21 and then, with boyfriend/business partner Pierre Bergé, built the YSL brand—than anything that follows in Pierre Thoretton’s documentary. Fou leads up to the February 2009 auction of the couple’s massive art collection, with Bergé providing 90 percent of the film’s testimony. Bergé paints his late ex as a chronically depressed handful, an idiot savant incapable of taking care of himself whose real genius may have consisted of strategically adopting influence and surrounding himself with beautiful things. These things are documented via countless slow-glide pans across rooms filled with objects, inspiring generally facile insights from Bergé on the ties between YSL’s work, the couple’s relationship, and the stuff amassed during it. It plays like an extended auction catalog with commentary. Thematically recalling Olivier Assayas’s Summer Hours—another film dealing with objects in a French art collection as receptacles for memory and personal biography—it sorely lacks that drama’s tension between insular nostalgia and the wider, rapidly evolving outside world.

 
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