“Fashion is not a major art. It is not an art at all,” one character proclaims midway through this biopic of legendary French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent.
This is not a point of view that the film itself shares. Its subject’s achievements are treated in reverential fashion.
From his young days as a spindly and neurotic designer at Christian Dior in the 1950s to the moment he created the Mondrian dress and the way he reinvented himself in the 1960s counter-culture era, YSL was a consummate artist.
He could sketch brilliantly. He knew how to improvise (we see him startle Dior by fashioning a white bow for a black dress from material that just happens to be to hand).
Pierre Niney, an actor from the Comédie-Française, plays him brilliantly, showing his transformation from gawky Adrian Mole-like adolescent to jaded sybarite, hanging out in Morocco with all his rich friends.
The problem, from the point of view of drama, is that his life was so devoted to his work.
Yes, he had nervous breakdowns, treated models badly, took drugs, was neurotic in the extreme and occasionally argued with his lover and business partner, Pierre Bergé (Guillaume Gallienne).
That, though, isn’t really enough to sustain a feature-length biopic.