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Like any world so heavily rooted in fantasy and the drama of human desire, fashion is a world of mythologies. The myth of the grand couturier, the glamourous model, the shrewd fashion editor, the cliques, the rivalries, the triumphs, the tragedies: devices of sorts that fuel the industry, propelling it as a means of entertainment to the delight of those content to unravel its inner mysteries via television or an exposé documentary. It brings the question of what is actually left to engage once fashion has had its sheen polished off by the voracious and undiscerning. With director Pierre Thoretton’s newest film, L’Amour Fou, this question was not answered but instead made irrelevant. Taking form around Pierre Bergé as he auctions off the vast collection he and his dead lover amassed over several decades, it breaches what is possibly one of fashion’s most revered mythologies of all: Yves St.Laurent, the grandest of all couturiers whose scale of suffering and accomplishments would make prudent material for even the most woeful of Greek tragedies. L’Amour Fou is not about fashion, it’s about everything else that matters.
Bergé and St. Laurent’s art collection is a legend of its own within the fashion world; a testament to the pair’s devotion to beauty and the tangible macrocosm, the total aesthetic universe, which St. Laurent’s own fashions existed within. For a designer who was acclaimed not as a couturier but as an artist — the rarest of all distinctions, the importance of the collection cannot be stressed enough. The stories within each piece, ranging from Mondrian to ancient Chinese ceramics, relics in the temple of YSL, are loaded with personal history and are as key to the lore of St. Laurent as any of the great thematic couture. The anticipated cathartic release Bergé experiences as he sends off the collection piece by piece is as real and intense as expected. To say in the least, Thoretton handles this drama with an elegance and complexity that parallels the myth itself, using archival footage, interviews, and beautifully filmed portraits of Bergé at his most vulnerable and expressive moments to tell the story of the man’s greatest love. If the subject matter was not enough, Thoretton’s adept storytelling abilities hits with an exacting subtlety, his narrative is strong but it is as much his as it is Bergé’s, or even the late St. Laurent’s.
In our world of celebrity, the one fashion designers must now humor and occasionally fall victim to, St. Laurent would be considered a god in his own right and his life so easily chronicled with a gawking gaze. Thoretton acknowledges and dismisses this with a slew of contradictions that define the film; addressing and denouncing the viewers expectation of spectacle and scandal, bringing them far beyond a comfort threshold that is often taken for granted within fashion but is all too real. But then L’Amour Fou is not a fashion film, it’s a film about love and saying goodbye and is maybe the most fitting homage to fashion’s greatest romantic.
L’Amour Fou opens in New York May13th at the IFC and the Paris Theater