Crazy love, mad love, foolish love, however you want to translate the title of the 2010 documentary L’amour Fou
by Pierre Thoretton, it does not really matter. The power of the love between fashion icon Yves Saint Laurent and his partner of fifty years Pierre Berge needs no translation; crazy or not, love conquers all. This film captures the meticulous accumulation of valuable and meaningful pieces that furnished their numerous homes (in Paris, Normandy, and Marrakech) and fashioned their ever-growing passionate and turbulent life together.
The film begins with live-footage of Saint Laurent announcing his retirement after 44 years in the fashion industry. In 2002, humble, calm, and terminally shy, he bid farewell to the world that cast an inescapable limelight on him, and six years later he passed away at the age of 71. His retirement speech is then juxtaposed with Berge’s speech at Laurent’s funeral. The first speech articulate’s the end of an era in the fashion industry, and the second expresses the end of a love. Berge’s speech makes you reflect on the finality of death and how hard it is to let go of everything you thought you knew.
What really strikes you while watching this film is the trivial nature of objects. As the priceless paintings, chairs, vases, statues, and other items that reflected the lives of Berge and Laurent were taken away to be sold at an auction house in Paris, you are really witnessing a love being dismantled and sold. It is the final goodbye, as these objects really have no more meaning without Laurent there to share his love of them with Berge. Though is appeared as if these two were avid art collectors, the collection came about slowly and as Berge stressed, by “chance.” They did not seek out anything, they were merely stumbled upon, and this is what I found to be truly romantic and created a sentimental value for each piece. There is a story to every item, not a “oh, that sculpture I bought on Ebay because so and so did it.” No. They loved everything, but without the love of both parties Berge felt it was necessary to sell their coveted belongings. The auction was extremely successful, selling 733 paintings and objets and raised over $200 million, which Berge used in part to fund AIDS research, a noble cause that Berge has been dedicated to for over twenty years.
Though the film is slow-moving, it is never drawn-out or boring (at least to me). For the first time in a while, I was not thinking about what time is was or how much time was left in the film. I was fully captivated by the beautiful images in this film and was enthralled by the montage of photos showing the growth of Laurent from budding fashion designer at the house of Dior to his own fashion corporation that transformed the face of haute couture and established ready-to-wear clothing. He was a genius, an innovator, a man who was born depressed and struggled with fame, a man who understood his times but disliked it. Laurent will not be forgotten and though the film advertises to depict the auction of the century, it really illustrates a love that spanned half of one and will now live beyond one because of this moving documentation.