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.
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.)