A-still-from-the-new-Yves-Saint-Laurent-movie-2014Yves St. Laurent, directed by Jalil Lespert, retraces the steps to notoriety and fashion immortality of the prodigious designer, Yves St. Laurent (Pierre Niney). It opens with a neurotic 21 year old design genius taking over the fashion house of Christian Dior and winds through Saint Laurent’s trials with substance abuse, turbulent love affairs and his diagnosis as a manic-depressive. Somehow, YSL still manages to, at times, feel both dull and leaden.

While the film does serve to titillate and engage through its tale of the well-dressed but wicked world of couture, it becomes stale with long-winded scenes and repetitive action. Pierre Berge, Saint Laurent’s lifelong partner, gave his consent and insight in making the film but those details fall flat throughout the course of the story. Also, an abrupt ending, that skips a few decades to the end of Saint Laurent’s life, does nothing to satisfy or serve the storyline.

Saint Laurent is characterized in brutal detail that doesn’t always flatter and offers no misgivings as to his virtues and vices as a man with many talents and flaws. Niney’s portrayal of Saint Laurent is seamless and engaging. The storyline might fall flat but the Comedie Francaise actor captures every high note from psychiatric treatments to drug-addled orgies.

Guillaume Gallienne, who played Saint Laurent’s longtime partner, Berge, also creates a moving and well-rounded performance. He thrives in his depiction of the dutiful but flawed partner who made himself the structure and base upon which Saint Laurent was able to build and maintain his own fashion house. Berge is not without his transgressions but Gallienne is able to capture it all in a classic and contained performance that doesn’t miss an ounce of emotion.

Charlotte Le Bon also delivers a notable performance as Saint Laurent’s muse and lead model, Victoire Doutreleau. She is captivating on screen as she works through the duality of being both poised and frail. There is a dichotomy of child/woman and virgin/whore in Victoire that Le Bon effectively brings to life. While Berge serves to destroy the perfection Saint Laurent sees in Victoire, Le Bon is able to maintain a dignity and class within the role, even in the moments of her character’s indignity.

Yves St. Laurent is effective in highlighting the legendary designer’s triumphs and hallmarks in fashion while also peaking behind the scenes into his troubled mind and tumultuous personal life. Berge narrates the story and in many ways it is a retelling through his eyes and experiences. This retelling includes some ruthless characterizations and personal traumas in Saint Laurent’s life that otherwise might not have been known.

Entrenched in the high life of fashion, the movie also offers glimpses of famous figures like designer Karl Lagerfeld (Nikolai Kinski) and jewelry designer/model Loulou de la Falaise (Laura Smet). The film divulges more personal details of Berge’s partnership with Saint Laurent but misses out on his accolades in later life. A more micro look into the design genius’s work, besides the geneses of his revolutionary Le Smoking suit and Mondrian dresses, would’ve been intriguing.