The latest fashion icon to become the subject of documentary is deceased French couture icon Yves Saint Laurent. In L’amour fou, first-time feature director Pierre Thoretton focuses his lens on the designer’s partner of 50 years, Pierre Bergé, as he prepares to put the pair’s massive art collection on the auction block following Saint Laurent’s death in 2008.
A video artist, photographer and occasional actor, Thoretton was inspired to make the film following a series of conversations he’d had with Bergé, whom he met through his former mother-in-law, actress Catherine Deneuve.
Unlike recent fashion-focused documentaries such as The September Issue and Valentino: The Last Emperor, L’amour fou sends the backstage glitz to the periphery and examines Saint Laurent’s influence through the spectrum of his relationship with Bergé, who also attended the film’s North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival Saturday night.
‘I really wanted to film this incredible story of love and love against all odds over a period of 50 years,’ says Thoretton. ‘I wondered, what are the keys to that type of relationship? That type of love?’
‘I think I have found something while working on this subject,’ he adds. ‘How to live together despite it all. For them, I think they had a common goal; they were trying to achieve something and they were working towards it.’
Thoretton spent two years amassing archival footage and photos – many sourced from Life magazine – and filming the dismantling of the art collection. He also touches on Bergé’s friendship with former French president François Mitterrand and his social activism in the 1980s around gay rights and HIV/AIDS.
Bergé dominates the film, which unfolds at a deliberate, languid pace. ‘It’s like a filigrane picture you have on bank notes,’ Thoretton says of his pacing. ‘When you hold it up to the light, you see the image inside. There’s kind of a little thread embedded in the image that you can see if you look at it carefully. In the movie, you can discover this image – the common goal that brought them together.’
L’amour fou opens in France on Sept. 22 and is available for international sales via Films Distribution.