The year 2014 saw the emergence of two French biopics, both about the same personality: the famous stylist Yves Saint Laurent. Naturally subject to comparisons, the rivalry nevertheless set in from the production phase, with certain complications…
The Bergé problem
In 2014, two biopics about the famous French designer appeared: Saint Laurent by Bertrand Bonello and Yves Saint Laurent by Jalil Lespert. Both evoke the life of thehigh fashion artist. The first, carried by Gaspard Ulliel, showing the excesses of a life, the second, with Pierre Niney, depicting the decade between 1967 and 1976…
Naturally subject to comparisons, the rivalry was however installed from the production phase, with certain complications…
Indeed, the two films experienced their first collision by the hand of Pierre Berge, the former companion of the French designer. While that of Lespert received its approval, that of Bonello was deprived of it… This misfortune caused different setbacksfrom the search for funding to the making of the film.
Right from the production phase, Pierre Bergé has strongly opposed to filming of Saint Laurent trying to prevent it from happening. Although he did not issue any explanations, he always mentioned his strong interest in Lespert’s film and in particular for its main actor. He recalls in a broadcast ofEuropean 1 his emotion in front of the interpretation of Pierre Niney, embodying Yves Saint Laurent:
When I saw the rushes of this film for the first time, the passages of Pierre Niney, I was very upset. Because there, really, I had the impression of seeing Yves alive again.
This preference also caused damage during the set-up of Bonello’s film. While the rival team had the real apartments of the stylist, the team of Saint Laurent had to turn in reconstructed decorations. In the press kit, the director explains the magnitude of the task:
We rented a huge private mansion which we used as a studio for almost all the scenes except those of fashion shows and nightclubs: rue Spontini, Babylone, the workshops, Liberation, Proust’s bedroom…
The head decorator Katia Wyszkop thus had to reconstitute a twenty sets, each featuring multiple works of art. However, if this part was already a challenge, the creation of costumes was even more so. Not having access to the collections of the Pierre Bergé Foundation – Yves Saint Laurent, the costume designer Anais Romand had to put together the scattered pieces of the puzzle:
The most technically difficult was having to make two mythical YSL haute couture collections from almost nothing, without having access to the archives and authentic dresses of the Bergé Saint Laurent foundation. (…) It was really painstaking work to decipher the documentation to find the right volumes, the right materials, the most accurate colors and not betray the spirit of YSL, to try to bring image the novelty, the freshness and the sumptuousness of these collections, and for that the cinema helps a lot!
Although Lespert’s team could access the collections, they were strictly prohibited from making copies. The loan of the original pieces had a major drawback: a wearing time of two hours maximum… Advantage given to the reconstruction in terms of practicality!
A rivalry that ends well
Although Saint Laurent took a few months behind the release of Yves Saint Laurentthe two films had a equivalent success. Both nominated in several festivalsPierre Niney won the César for Best Actor while Gaspard Ulliel was awarded the same title by the Lights of the Foreign Press. Saint Laurent is also awarded the best costume award and best supporting role for Jérémie Renier (playing Pierre Bergé).
Bonello’s film thus came out without a hitch. During the Cannes festival, we were able to see a director who was perfectly satisfied and without resentment: