Sunday, May 29, 2011

L'Amour Fou ...The Crazy Love: A Story Of Piere Berge And Yves Saint Laurent But Surely Not The Only Story

I left the matinee of L'Amour Fou sadly, understanding for the first time the language of ennui: the feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction, the demon that crept in to seize joy from the brilliant, dazzling Yves Saint Laurent. Pierre Berge as his lover, partner and finally protector becomes an observer, even of his own life, as he prepares the collections of riches, serious art, objects and rare examples of furniture to be inventoried and packed for perhaps the most important auction ever at Christie's. The bidding went wild, competitive, frenzied; a chair selling for $28,000,000.00.  Pierre Berge is shown walking in alone, sitting alone; a duty of some kind is being carried out.

Once upon a time, Yves Saint Laurent had come to Christian Dior so very young and eager, smiling at life. Soon his own house and an awareness of the changing world and that street fashion was important to understand. It was with kindness, something that he radiated early in his career, that he launched a Pret a Porter collection, the first designer of the Haute Couture to do so; it would be produced by factories owned by Didier Grumbach's family. In the way that things move as they will, Didier Grumbach has become President of the Chambre Syndicale and Federation Francaise de la Couture.

Riches, mansions, fabulous friends, excesses and a gnawing pain as Saint Laurent withdrew more and more; when he gives up drinking and the drugs, he is alone with his work while Pierre Berge watches over him somberly, seemingly emotionless. There's no stop button, no bell, no help at all.

 Saint Laurent in his long white coat at his atelier contemplative, sketching, his bow at the end of the show until the final one, Catherine Deneuve supporting him. His collections are mere flashes, perfunctory, simply illustrating his work sparsely, a stingy rendition, unsatisfying; the Mondrian collection is a counter point to the Mondrian works they acquired, now being sent off to auction. The Russian collection flashes too quickly to allow the impact of that seminal collection, arguably his best.

Like an index to be checked off, a very young Saint Laurent had fun with a q&a, a moment for Betty Catroux's darkness and the hilarity he yearned for in LuLu de la Falaise, her fondness and compassion genuine, the houses, the gardens, the art, the scenes in clubs, always smoking, ever more introverted; it's shown and then the next scene, no small moments, almost impersonal.

I'm sure this is an allegory for the Pret a Porter that grew and grew alongside Saint Laurent's influence as a designer with his own shops. The YSL Rive Gauche was made in the Mendes factories that belonged to Didier Grumbach's family. It was Didier that brought Ossie Clark, Emmanuelle Khan, Jean Charles de Castelbajac and Issey Miyake to the historical Createurs et Industriel fashion show in Paris to be manufactured in his factories. The "little hands" of the Haute Couture gave way another level of fashion: industrialization.

The context of watching a simple albeit plodding documentation of the life and death of Saint Laurent witnessed by Pierre Berge, a man who thrust his hands in his pockets and walked heavily - alone, with the loss of Alexander Lee McQueen to suicide, Christophe Decarnin of Balmain replaced after being hospitalized for months with a serious kind of depression and the devastating implosion of John Galliano  caused by his depression and addiction was heavy and hard. It's not easy to understand the kind of pain that destroys lives. And why others escape this blight. I don't understand at all.

 Pierre Berge was asked if Saint Laurent would have swept the collection of their lifetimes to auction and he said no. No, Saint Laurent would have missed his treasures, each one.

Didier had once asked Charles and me if we could buy the collection for their South Coast Plaza Rive Gauche. I remember the gleam of the brass elevator marked with the YSL imprint taking us directly to the showroom; wood tables, racks of clothes, fitting models ... the usual. We worked easily, really just for the satisfaction of being buyers of Saint Laurent. Later on that trip we walked into the Valentino showroom that wouldn't sell to us and sat boldly at a table, beginning to write quite a nice order before we were discovered, Marco Rivera's finger wagging at us. We were buyers of Giorgio Armani which was produced in the same factories as Valentino and we thought we might have pulled it off.

Not quite a fashion film. It is disquieting, I think. The sadness Saint Laurent lived with was pervasive, eating away. Terrible.


  1. One of my favorite posts. Period.

  2. Ah Khola. Kindness is nicer after this movie, I still can't get it out of mind.

  3. I want to come back in my next life as you.

  4. A buyer who was sleep deprived and longed for a bowl of ravioli but didn't have time, Ferre or lunch? Ok, I loved it wildly. And had no idea that many of these gaspingly poor designers would become mega-billionaires.

  5. The last YSL documentary I saw was too depressing...I'll skip this one!

  6. Such a life, and Thank you so much for sharing some of the background...I would love to see this film

    I am hosting A New very Exciting $250 Giveaway from Tracy Porter

    Art by Karena

  7. Your thoughts on the film increase my desire to see it; I must make the time soon. I really enjoyed reading this, thank you!

  8. I must see this, even if it is sad. Thank you for introducing it to me.

  9. Wonderful post. It is a shame that must great designers are tortured and lonely, but I think this applies to all types of 'geniuses' in the world, regardless of the industry (writers and scientists aren't necessarily happier). I did love the YSL retrospetice Berge organized in Paris last year but in some ways I'm puzzled how he can be so overprotective of YSL one minute (the Warhol story comes to mind) and sell everything off the next.

  10. The selling everything that Yves loved/needed in a final swoop while acknowledging Yves would not have sent all of Pierre's things to auction is disturbing. It's hard to imagine a Matisse or an Eileen Gray bringing paing to Pierre in the absence of Yves.


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