Posted: 09/27/2011


L’amour Fou


by Daniel Engelke

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It’s been a while since I’ve sat down and watched a “serious” film. For the past few weeks I took a sabbatical to focus on Eddie Murphy’s less notable efforts (e.g. Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps).

When the chance finally arose to watch L’amour Fou, a documentary on the life of fashion icon Yves Saint Laurent, I was quite pleased.

L’amour Fou opens with a press conference where Laurent is bidding adieu to the fashion world. In a morose manner, the famed designer tells the harsh reality of his creative process, as well as the beauty of it, during the final interview.

The film then travels to the televised funeral of Laurent in 2008. During the eulogy, a teary-eyed Pierre Berge, Laurent’s partner, remembers his longtime lover. Berge then returns to the designer’s home where movers have already began taking away artwork for auction.

As the priceless artifacts are slowly removed from the house, Berge recounts the sometimes beautiful, sometimes tragic love affair between himself and Laurent. The relationship is primarily told through wonderfully collected archival footage and Berge’s voiceover, while the “dismantling” of home furnishings is happening in real time. Berge watches as past memories disappear around him only to be sold at auction in the climax of the film.

Contrary to my above synopsis, L’amour Fou is not a depressing documentary. Like the work of fellow French filmmaker Agnes Varda, debut director Pierre Thoretton makes great use of his photographic background. Filled with rich shots of the disappearing home furnishings, Thoretton, with the help of Berge, signifies important moments in the designer’s life through his art collection.

After finishing a film, I spend my time researching information and reviews. Not surprisingly, most reviews are not in favor of L’amour Fou. Seeing the deeply personal life of an artist is not always à la mode.

What is brutally apparent in the film is how much Yves Saint-Laurent despised fame. Consequently, this reason is why I enjoyed L’amour Fou so much.
Not only visible in the intimate footage, but also through Berge’s stories, Laurent’s life was less than perfect.

L’amour Fou focuses less on the iconic style from the famed designer and more on the painstaking measures he took to achieve it.

Daniel Engelke is a recent graduate of Columbia College Chicago’s Film & Video program. He resides in New York as a freelance writer and videographer. With expertise in French & British New Wave Cinema and Italian Neo-Realism, Daniel also works as a director and intern for Edward Bass Films.

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