What is it about French fashion stories that drives directors to release two versions at a time?
In 2009 it was an obsession with all things CC, first with Coco Avant Chanel starring Audrey Tautou, then Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky starring Anna Mouglalis.
Now we have two juicy French biopics set to release in 2014 about designer Yves Saint Laurent, who famously became artistic director at the house of Dior at just 21 years of age.
Yves Saint Laurent, set to be released in Australia and the US in June, stars talented 25-year-old Gallic actor Pierre Niney (above) as the late couturier – a sensational performance given the ultimate stamp of approval by Saint Laurent’s real life former partner Pierre Bergé.
“I am blown away by Pierre Niney’s performance,” Bergé, 83, told WWD ahead of the film’s release in France. “It really disconcerted me, it even upset me, because it’s very difficult. At times, I thought it was Yves Saint Laurent himself. That’s huge.”
Niney spent five months preparing for the role, obsessively studying old television interviews of the designer, taking lessons in fashion design and sewing, and studying the designer’s archives.
The Yves Saint Laurent Foundation seriously threw its support behind the film, granting director Jalil Lespert filming access to their Avenue Marceau headquarters in Paris, where Saint Laurent’s design studio has been left intact since he passed away in 2008.
Bergé, who presides over the Yves Saint Laurent Foundation, lent 77 vintage outfits to be used as costumes in the film. (The foundation currently stores around 8000 outfits in total).
For Bergé, “defending the image of the house of Yves Saint Laurent was the most important thing”, says the film’s costume designer Madeline Fontaine.
“He really did not want us to recreate any costumes,” Fontaine told The Guardian.
“Of course, we could not make any alterations to the original pieces either, so we had to cast the models for the fashion show scenes in a very unusual way, by finding models that would fit the dresses.
“Afterwards, we had to build shoes that fitted them.”
Fantastically, it means that most of those iconic fashion moments you witness in the film are actually original pieces, including the famous “le smoking” tuxedo jacket, the Mondrian dress from 1965 and pieces from the scandalous ‘Collection 40’ in 1971, such as the green fox fur coat.
“We never loan out clothes, so each one came with a handler,” said Bergé, who insisted the clothes and drawings (below) featured in the film were the real deal, to WWD.
“Someone from the Foundation was behind each outfit and the models were not allowed to sit down. It was very complicated, but we did it. I lent (Lespert) the clothes on several precise conditions: that we got to pick the models, hair and makeup.”
Bertrand Bonello’s rival production Saint Laurent on the other hand, which stars French “it” girl Lea Seydoux as fashion muse Loulou de la Falaise and Gaspard Ulliel as the man himself, has not been afforded any such assistance.
According to WWD, Bergé has warned them he will sue if they show so much as a copy of a fashion sketch, let alone a copy of an actual Saint Laurent garment. It will be interesting to see how they have worked around that problem.
Yves Saint Laurent opens in Australia on June 26. Saint Laurent is expected to premiere at Cannes Film Festival next month.