Photograph of Yves Saint Laurent by Jeanloup Sieff, 1971

I love going to the movies. Especially when it’s 90 degrees outside. The theater has become my own personal air conditioner and taking in a film as a form of escapism has taken on a whole new meaning this summer.

What I love most about going to the movies, is being able to put  my own life on hold. Whatever is happening stops. The dark, cool movie caves, illuminated only by the strips of light that line the isles, and the soft glow of the screen, create a surreal environment, like you’re inside a bubble floating through space. For the next few hours, you get to live someone else’s life. Feel what they feel, see what they see. All conveniently without any consequence. It’s a very intimate experience. So intimate in fact, that I am finding more and more that I am only comfortable going with those very close to me. Otherwise, I go alone. And when I emerge back into the light of my own life, I can’t help but feel a bit changed. Walking home from the theater, down the sidewalks and through the subway tunnels, I feel special. Like I’ve just been let in on an amazing secret. A secret that the swarm of people swirling around me have yet to hear. Because that’s what a movie is. A secret that was in someone’s head, the story of their life, perhaps in another country, or at another time, that they decided to let out. And what could be better than being let in on the intimacies of someone’s mind? There exists infinite perspectives and each time you go to the movies, your own perspective grows greater. And for me, this rush of knowledge, always leads to deep contemplation, creativity and peace. I love the movies.


A young YSL, sketching

And honestly, who didn’t love when the teacher decided to show a film during class? Some of the most interesting lessons have been taught to me through movies. The information always seemed to stick when it was visually presented. And so as part of my own fashion studies, I have sourced many films to help familiarize myself with designers throughout history. So when I heard about the release of the Yves Saint Laurent bio-pic this summer, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to learn more about the iconic designer by taking a trip to one of my favorite New York cinema’s, the Film Forum.


Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent

The film focused mainly on the rise of Yves to fame, beginning when he was first hired by Dior, and ending during his successful yet tumultuous reign of decadence in the 1970’s. It concluded by skipping briefly ahead to his death and into present day, where we joined Pierre Bergé, Yves’ partner in both business and in life, as he reflected on life without Yves. It was a heartbreaking film that focused on a genius and his keeper. Two men so powerful together, yet lost without the other. Yves was a shy boy with great talent. So much talent, that Christian Dior himself hired him to work at his atelier, and upon Dior’s death, Yves was appointed to take over. That is until he had a mental break down in response to his draft notice. It was Pierre Bergé who lifted Yves back to life; Bergé who answered Yves’ plea to never compromise his art by working under another; Bergé who sued Dior for their unlawful release of Laurent upon his breakdown. And with that money, Bergé and Yves built the empire that is YSL.

Fashion Mondrian YSLaurent 65 Sally Black 79843

Yves’ famous Mondrian dress. One of the most copied designs in fashion history.

When watching another’s life, it is easy to slip into the self-righteous and gasp at the poor decisions of others. That being said, I must admit that it was difficult to watch such genius act so childishly at times. To see unfathomable success compromised by such temporary thrills like sex and drugs hardly makes sense. And it wasn’t just Yves, it was everyone! The lack of loyalty was truly disheartening. But Yves’, childlike nature did not always manifest itself negatively, but instead as reserved and shy. Even at the height of his fame, he still held onto this sort of private, humble heir, visible each time he reluctantly took his applause on the runway his each shows. As someone who always thought of being shy as one of my greatest faults, Yves showed me that I could instead flip it to become a great advantage. In an interview with, Pierre Niney, who played Yves in the film, he said that his favorite line, which was unfortunately cut, occurred during the scene when Bergé and Yves first meet. Bergé said to Yves, “You speak very low,” to which Yves replied, “Yes — it’s to force the other person to listen to me.” Later in the film, Yves attends a party where he is being introduced to a group of people. Upon his departure from the scene, a member of the group warns, “Beware of shy people, they rule the world.” For this taming of a fault, I admire Yves greatly.


The Beautiful Fall, by Alicia Drake

If you want to learn more about Yves and the fashion scene of the 1970’s, I highly recommend reading, The Beautiful Fall, by Alicia Drake. You’ll be introduced to all the major players of the time, and get a much better view of the whole picture, through everyone’s eyes. As for this film, I definitely enjoyed it. Cinematically, it was beautiful and the acting was great. I am glad I knew a good bit about Yves going in so that I wasn’t completely put off by his behavior at times. And good news, they just extended the film’s run at the forum so you now have an extra week to catch it on the big screen!

Film Forum – 209 West Houston – 212.727.8110


One thought on “Film: Yves Saint Laurent

  1. Thanks Sami, I enjoyed this so very much, I watched a couple of trailers. I think your writing is right on!!

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