L'Amour Fou: A French Fashion Flashback Slash Auction Showcase 

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L'Amour Fou
Directed by Pierre Thoretton

Like many a runway show, L'Amour Fou is largely surface glitz. Director Pierre Thoretton attempts to paint a revealing portrait of couture legend Yves Saint-Laurent—an apparently peculiar and chronically depressed fellow—via his (and his partner Pierre Berge's) elaborate antique collection, which is about to be auctioned off. This isn't the first film to use the lives of objects d'art to evoke a sense of nostalgia and recollection—Assayas's Summer Hours comes to mind, and its unprecedented emotional effectiveness looms over the proceedings here.

That's not to say that Saint-Laurent's story is particularly dull. The film's narration—90% of which is done by Berge—outlines his humble beginnings at the House of Dior, which he took over at the age of 21 before branching out on his own to curate the current YSL image. He's a surprisingly singular, lanky character; one which Berge paints as being frustratingly doleful and fixated on surrounding himself with beautiful things, an almost perfect subject for a documentary. Thoretton gives the viewer opportunities to connect with Saint-Laurent on a more personal level via archival footage, but none is particularly informative. One particular interview consists of the man rattling off adjectives that describe himself; and we also get to revel in his interest in body hair. Informative indeed. We seem to almost always be one step behind figuring out Saint-Laurent, but sadly Thoretton never lets us catch up or speed ahead.

Where L'Amour Fou fumbles is in its presentation. For a filmmaker who relies so much using flashbacks and stories to outline Saint-Laurent's tumultuous life, Thoretton seems to be fixated on the present. Coupled with Berge's narration, we're subjected to repeated slow pans and tracks through the admittedly sumptuous, antique-laden rooms of Saint-Laurent's house. The camera almost forces us to revel in the fancy lifestyle the man leads, when one more often than not wishes for some more exposition or perhaps footage of Saint-Laurent himself (or even his clothes). The film's final scenes—which outline the auctioning off of all of the art—seem like an appropriate finale to what the film has been building up to, but the build-up itself is largely frustrating. L'Amour Fou blurs the lines between touching retrospect and Sotheby's auction showcase with, as expected, little success.

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