Saturday, June 13, 2015

Saint Laurent (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Saint Laurent

This latest film is a near xerox copy of the biopic on the designer Yves Saint Laurent by Jalil Lespert. Here Laurent (Gaspard Ulliel, Hannibal) is once more anxious and be-speckled in large black glasses. He is a twin of the previous Yves, played by Pierre Niney. We first see him curled up and lying in a field of rubble. Gray dirt rising in heaps everywhere around him. Then he arrives in Paris, presumably to sleep.

Unlike the last film, this one is told in small impressionist vignettes which gives it a swiftness that the other, nearly identical, film lacks.

Yet despite the narrative alteration, it feels like the same pattern. Yves sketches like a human crayon, obsessive and perpetually smoking, puffing away between gobs of chocolate mousse. At night he becomes a cloak of night, a creature on the prowl hunting for male flesh. Within the cacophonous cavern of a disco he sits alone, a dreamy wallflower and a tense voyeur.

Yves doesn't say a word.

And aside from some pill-popping, that is about all we get. Ulliel utters scarce few lines of dialogue. It is well established that this man is a genius, that he parties hard and that he is afraid of being forgotten as yesterday's swatches of fabric. Beyond these facts however, Yves is a mere color smudge of himself. What of his relationship with Pierre? (Jeremie Renier) Or his tangible fears? Or his time in the French Army where he was given LSD and endured a breakdown? Aside from one small mention we learn nothing.

This film was billed as having the tone of a work by Scorsese, but other than some "Scarface" type synthesizer echoes, I am hard pressed to find any trash talking Goodfellas here.

Stylistically, the film does manage some spunk, given the many split-screen segments throughout in the tradition of Brian De Palma. This illustrates the designer as a passive watcher and this is where the film most succeeds.

Indeed throughout the day-glo and brown hullabaloo, Yves is a walking piano key that draws, a mere cypher, blending into one scene to the next.

We see Laurent go from a youthful pastel to a scaly misanthrope but there is little substance to unite the young man to the figurehead he becomes.

The single most telling scene shows the designer sitting as still as a corpse. "Move your arm to show you are alive," an assistant urges. Seen in this way Yves Saint Laurent the man is more a Tim Burton creation than a master of haute couture. Against a stark white salon background, the scene offers some well needed gallows humor.

Overall "Saint Laurent" is a mere shadow play with lines and stitches that only the most uninitiated will find of intrigue.

Most others  will see this oddly minimal charade (sans Warhol) as deja vu and cry ennui.

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