During his 45-year career as one of the world's most iconic and influential fashion designers, Yves Saint Laurent (1936-2008), who brought the world Le Smoking, the Safari look, the Mondrian dress, and Opium, assembled a massive and extraordinary collection of art. Pierre Thoretton's documentary L'amour Fou, follows the late designer's life and business partner, Pierre Berge, as he readys to auction off the couple's 700+ piece art collection in 2009. Through various interviews with Berge discussing his relationship with Saint Laurent and their extensive collection, as well as long, lingering shots of the couple's uber luxurious homes in Paris, Marrakech, and Normandy - jam packed with fine art and objets d'art, viewers get a sneak peek into the fashion power couples' private life.
Whereas Berge glosses over Saint Laurent's depression, alcohol and drug abuse, and dismissal from Christian Dior (where at the age of 21 he was appointed head designer after Dior's death in 1957 - a decision made by Dior himself shortly before passing away), he talks about the art in detail. The couple started collecting in the 1950s, starting with a bird sculpture from West Africa, a pair of vases, and a Brancusi. The collection kept growing, and growing, and growing to include works by Picasso, Mondrian, Degas, Leger, Matisse, Ensor, Warhol, and many more. Interspersed between Berge's stories and glimpses of the collection are clips from Saint Laurent's runway shows (some of the first to feature models of color) and interviews with two of his muses and besties, the boho-fab Loulou de la Falaise and the impossibly cool Betty Catroux. Constant companions of Saint Laurent's, the two fondly reminisce about their friend, his work, and their hard partying days of yore.
If this all sounds a bit convoluted - it is. Thoretton should have chosen to focus either on YSL's life or the art collection and stuck with it. For a more focused documentary on the life and career of YSL, check out David Teboul's Yves Saint Laurent: His Life and Times or read Alicia Drake's The Beautiful Fall: Lagerfeld, Saint Laurent, and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris. That being said, L'amour Fou is still worth checking out. The access into Saint Laurent and Berge's homes, the archival footage of the designer, and the old photographs are fascinating. The amount and quality of the art the two collected over the years (like very elegant pack rats) is staggering—their homes were like museums. It was sad watching the appraisers value the pieces and then see the art handlers haul them away leaving big, gaping, empty spaces in their Paris home. (There's a quick, blink-and-you'll-miss-it scene of the handlers packing away the looted, 18th-century rabbit and rat head sculptures from the Yuanming Yuan gardens that inspired Ai Weiwei's Zodiac Heads.) It was exciting to watch the auction and see the intense bidding skyrocket straight through the roof. The multi-millions the auction brought in was said to go towards AIDS research.
While I can't imagine parting with such magnificent, meaningful items, the 81-year-old, non-nostalgic Berge seemed very calm and intent on selling it all off—to move on and close that chapter of his life. Playing at IFC Center.