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NYFF 2014: ‘Saint Laurent’ is an exhausting yet atypical look at the fashion icon

Great film direction can reflect great fashion. Unlike its direct competition, the earlier 2014 film Yves Saint Laurent, director and co-writer Bertrand Bonello portrays the fashion mogul with saturated palettes of grandeur in Saint Laurent. The prior film is directed by actor-turned-filmmaker Jalil Lespert, who,having less directorial experience than Bonello, doesn’t quite transform the character of Laurent with the vision and divinity as its successor. Where Lespert is almost literal, Bonello is instead deep and as complex as the character himself, picking apart every detail of the icon and the space he walked in.

NYFF 2014: ‘Saint Laurent’ is gorgeous but light

Expressing his appreciation for a painting of Proust’s bedroom, Yves Saint Laurent says, “There’s so much fidelity in it. The artist didn’t eclipse his subject.” Something similar can be said of Bertrand Bonello’s biopic of the iconic woman’s fashion designer, as the film seems content with offering fleeting glimpses of its subject drinking, smoking, pill-popping, and sketching in fervid bursts rather than trying to understand him. It doesn’t pontificate or wax philosophical or dig deeply into Saint Laurent’s psyche. It treats the man more like a piece of art to be displayed and observed. (To be fair, this year’s other Saint Laurent biopic, Yves Saint Laurent, does try to explain the man, and it fails pretty hard, so maybe Bonello has the right idea.)

Grand Central Tahar Rahim Lea Seydoux Grass

GFF 2014: ‘Grand Central’ is a stylish but problematic romantic drama

Set against the imposing backdrop of a nuclear power station, Rebecca Zlotowski’s second feature is more a critique of France’s working class macho culture than the exploitative nature of the industry itself. The tremendous cooling towers dominate the screen like malignant remnants of the industrial age, but it is the young men themselves, unskilled, reckless and amoral, that appear to be the problem. Lured by the promise of easy money, they are happy to expose themselves daily to ‘the dose’ of radioactivity but show little respect for the danger this entails or for their fellow workers.

GFF 2014: ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ is perhaps Wes Anderson’s most ambitious film to date, and one of his best

More than perhaps any other director, the work of Ernst Lubitsch has been the most noticeable influence on Wes Anderson’s style. Though the great German-American writer-director, most prolific in the 1930s and 1940s, was never quite so aesthetically bold in the look of his sets, he too was preoccupied with meticulous staging for comedy within his chosen locales, be they the titular Shop Around the Corner or the Parisian hotel of Ninotchka; The Grand Budapest Hotel is set in a fictional European country, the Republic of Zubrowka, another Lubitsch trait from works like The Merry Widow and The Love Parade, though The Shop Around the Corner happens to be set in the city Anderson’s mountaintop lodging house takes its name from. He garnered the descriptor of ‘the Lubitsch touch’ thanks to the moving sincerity that always made itself evident within even his more broad comedic premises, and Anderson’s own best work is that in which a recognisable humanism always makes itself known and potent even within the stylised stiltedness through which most of his characters are written and performed.

‘Blue is the Warmest Color’ an emotionally raw, but frustrating, epic-length love story

Simultaneously distant and distinct, unfamiliar and knowing, Blue is the Warmest Color is an emotionally raw yet mildly troublesome epic drama. This year’s winner of the Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival is but two chapters in the life of its lead character, Adèle, spanning years, houses, life changes, and relationships, all of which pile up like cigarettes worn down to the nub.

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