Most people have seen Yves Saint Laurent’s creations but how many have wondered what is going on beneath the covers? The documentary, Celebration: Yves Saint Laurent, should answer some of these questions. This French film is shot in cinéma vérité style and gives a behind-the-scenes look at the fashion legend and his army of helpers. This is a chronicle of the label’s last fashion line to be designed by one of its original co-founders.
This film was shot by director, Olivier Meyrou, from 1998 to 2001. It was held up in legal disputes however, because St Laurent’s partner and fellow label co-founder, Pierre Bergé denounced the finished product. In some ways you can understand why he feels this way, because this is not a backslapping hagiography and instead, a document of the warts-and-all creative process.
Bergé features quite prominently in this film. His role involves things like stage managing and protecting St Laurent and the brand’s image. In this film, St Laurent looks increasingly frail. He would eventually pass away in 2008 while Bergé died in 2017.
The film was shot on Super 16, which was good quality for the period but does fall short by today’s standards. Meyrou uses both black and white, and colour footage for different scenes. The former is used to capture some of the label’s history while the latter is used to support the vibrant ideas offered here. The brand’s tailors, assistants and models appear in their natural states. Audiences will enjoy seeing YSL creations like the Mondrian dress, tuxedo suits and more.
This documentary is not a definitive look at St Laurent’s career. There are no interviews with fashion experts about the history or context of this work. St Laurent isn’t interviewed, although Bergé is. The proceedings do offer some introduction to the legendary designer via his catwalk shows and while accepting a lifetime achievement award, but his childhood remains a mystery. There is also a sense that there were some things left behind the veil of this artist and his amazing deigns.
Celebration will be enjoyed by fashion fans. They will love this rare and unfettered access to this great man, as well as this historic document of the creative process. While this is an intriguing look at the haute couture world, other fashion films like: McQueen are ultimately more compelling. Fashion is fickle after all…
Review score: three stars (out of five).
Celebration: Yves Saint Laurent plays as part of the Alliance Française French Film Festival from 5 March to 10 April. For more information and tickets please visit: https://www.affrenchfilmfestival.org/film/celebration-yves-saint-laurent/