The 2010 documentary L’amour fou [Crazy Love], not to be confused with Jacques Rivette’s 1969 film, examines the career of fashion giant Yves Saint Laurent and his four decade relationship with industrialist/lover Pierre Berge. The film is shot a year after Saint Laurent’s passing, on the eve of the 2009 sale of the couple’s extensive art collection. Berge narrates the rise of Saint Laurent from his succession of mentor Christian Dior to the founding of his own couture house to his rise as one of the greatest names in fashion history thanks to his ready-to-wear clothing lines and over-the-top sense of aesthetics. Extensive archival footage and the participation of Berge allow viewers unprecedented access to their extravagant homes in Paris, Marakech, and Normandy. These dwellings remain remarkably untouched in the present-day footage and are filmed with a slow elegance that provides museum-like explorations into the couple’s private lives. The final 20 minutes of the film capture the historic 2009 auction where works from the likes of Goya, Matisse, and Picasso sold for tens of millions of euros a piece. Berge watches the auction with an emotional detachment that he displays for the film’s entirety, never does he break down in tears when reminiscing over the ups and downs of their sometimes tumultuous relationship. His emotions may be as controlled as his cultured mannerisms, but there are several subtle moments of silent introspection that truly reveal Berge’s longing for the departed Saint Laurent. It is in these moments that the film truly succeeds as an exploration into the private life of an icon and those who cared deeply about him.
Despite the massive riches and appearances by famous folk the likes of Andy Warhol, Mick Jagger, and Catherine Deneuve, first-time director Pierre Thoretton never truly conveys Saint Laurent’s massive popularity nor his impact on the world of fashion. This may be forgivable since the casual moviegoer wouldn’t necessarily approach this film without prior knowledge of its subjects, but taking the audience’s knowledge for granted is definitely an unfortunate failing as the story is interesting enough to appeal to a larger moviegoing populace. In any event, Berge’s intellectual, almost poetic-like reminiscences are a pleasure that perfectly complement the joy of his partner’s work.
L’amour fou opens today at the Ritz Five.