Starting with his 1998 debut Something Organic, Bertrand Bonello’s films have added a touch of baroque excess to French cinema. While this wasn’t initially apparent from his first major film, 2001’s The Pornographer, it’s quite clear from his two films distributed in the US, House of Pleasures and Saint Laurent. The former is a compassionate examination of life in a 19th-century brothel, the latter follows a hedonistic decade in the life of famed fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. It dodges the usual pitfalls of the biopic by concentrating on such a short period; indeed, its ending seems like a piss-take on that genre’s clichés. One of two films on Saint Laurent made simultaneously, it’s far superior to Jalil Lespert’s Yves Saint Laurent. Its release follows a Film Society of Lincoln Center retrospective of Bonello’s work, which is useful since little of his oeuvre has been released stateside. The film opens tomorrow in NYC; we spoke to Bonello last month.
When did you get the idea to make a film about Yves Saint Laurent?
It’s not my idea. It began with a French producer who wanted for many years to do a film about him. When he saw my previous film, House of Pleasure, he called me and asked if the subject was interesting to me. I very quickly saw an opportunity of cinema. The subject brought something visually. The character was like someone from a novel. I also wanted to make a film about that period, the late 60s and early 70s. So that was my interest.