If you'll excuse the wording, Jalil Lespert's bio-drama "Yves Saint Laurent" is ill-suited to tell the story of the French fashion wunderkind who, at 21, took over Christian Dior's Paris empire soon after his death in 1957.
Saint Laurent is played as a fey and delicate young man by Pierre Niney, whose unassuming attitude masks a creative genius that, coupled with the business savvy of his partner and lover Pierre Berge (Guillaume Gallienne), takes him to the top of international success.
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But what made this guy tick? How was he inspired to be so inspirational? Dunno.
"Yves Saint Laurent," written by a trio using Laurence Benaim's book as a basis, focuses mostly on the designer's insatiable sexual appetites and his drug addictions.
Neither the screenplay nor Niney's performance provides a window into this man's soul, despite the actor's expansively beguiling eyes hinting at an artistic intelligence that never makes it on to the screen. The resulting bio-drama feels like any other generic formula self-destructive artist tale, one that captures the surface of Saint Laurent, but not his essence.
Although the widescreen camera work by Thomas Hardmeier paints wonderfully composed recreations of Saint Laurent's world from his 20s to his 40s, it's odd to see them rendered in color-deadened footage, especially during the 1960s when the designer's works exploded with color to the Peter Maximum.
"Yves Saint Laurent" opens at the River East 21 in Chicago. Rated R for drug use and sexual situations. 106 minutes. ★ ★