Yves Saint Laurent: The Rival Biopics

The life of Yves Saint Laurent is suddenly garnering a lot of attention. Two films about his life are set for release this year, both with permission from the fashion house, which seems slightly strange. Why permit two films in one year, which might seem like overkill?

We can only imagine that the house is hoping for a rise in profits as a result: well-made films, which explain the brand’s identity and history to an unfamiliar audience, can create potential new customers. Someone who’s seen and loved a film about Yves Saint Laurent the person is much more likely to buy a Saint Laurent lipstick, perfume or bag than someone who doesn’t know very much about the label’s legacy.
The first film, simply titled Yves Saint Laurent, is already in cinemas and has mostly had mixed reviews. From director Jalil Lespert, it focuses closely on the designer’s relationship with Pierre Bergé, his co-founder and long-term partner. And with a backdrop of glamorous parties, endless travel and immaculate fashion shows, it’s an enjoyable reminder of what the industry looked like before digital technology arrived.

But several critics have pointed out that it simply doesn't have enough drama to keep audiences rooted to their seats for a full-length film. Yves was brilliantly talented, but a drug problem and tumultuous relationship is rarely enough to merit a biopic. What has been highly praised, though, is Pierre Niney’s portrayal of the troubled designer. His transition from awkward and introvert to narcissist success – fragile at all stages, due to his manic depression – feels seamless.

Details are starting to emerge about the second film, due for release in October, but there are no full reviews yet. What we do know is that, despite it having backing from Kering, who own the Saint Laurent house, Pierre Bergé has said that he would like to stop its production. He tweeted “Two films on YSL? I hold the moral rights in the work of YSL’s image and mine have authorised that of Jalil Lespert.”
Gaspard Ulliel (a Chanel model) will play Saint Laurent, directed by Bertrand Bonello who, according to The Telegraph, wrote to Bergé to explain why they did not seek his permission before starting work on the film. The newspaper says they wanted real “freedom of expression” without any input from the Saint Laurent co-founder.

And to make the rivalry even tighter, this second film has the same working title as the first: Yves Saint Laurent. Simple and concise, it hints at another personal and intimate motion picture. We can’t wait to see how it compares to the first.


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