The Life And Loves of Yves Saint Laurent, 7HollywoodMag - Fall 2013/14

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The name Yves Saint Laurent needs no explanation - A French fashion designer, regarded as one of the greatest names in fashion history, whose namesake brand has long been synonymous with luxury, style and sophistication.

Now a feature film biop about the legendary fashion star is scheduled for a 2014 release.  Brainchild of French actor-turned-director Jalil Lespert, and starring Pierre Niney as Yves Saint Laurent and Guillaume Gallienne as Pierre Berge YSL’s lover and business partner. The French language feature offers a dramatic observation of  the life of YSL from the beginning of his career in 1958.

The film also examines the tumultuous relationship YSL had with Pierre Berge and the chaotic backstory to the iconic fashion house. Berge remained the protector of Saint Laurent throughout their life together. They were a force in the fashion industry, creators of a legacy and undeniable change in the very nature of fashion.

With a penchant for adapting European made success stories Hollywood heavyweight Harvey Weinstein is putting his efforts into molding the film for the American market. The offers a raw and candid examination of the fashion industry, with glimpses into the seedy side of  the business  from sex  and drugs to scandal. Flush from the box-office success of Django Unchained, Silver Linings Playbook and Escape From Planet Earth, the Weinstein Co. has a reputation for making successful movies.

French actor-turned-director Jalil Lespert has entered into a deal with Weinstein to transform it for the US market. Weinstein is in good stead to attain local success with the project, having previously reworked French film The War of the Buttons ("La Guerre des Boutons") with his adaptation competing against the original in France.

With a budget of around $20 million, the film  started filming in Paris in May 2013. Its synopsis reads, "Opening in Paris in January 1958 on the day Yves Saint Laurent presents his first haute couture collection for Dior and also meets Pierre Bergé, the picture charts the couple’s creation of the Yves Saint Laurent fashion house.

Weinstein’s little known interest in fashion sees him produce Project Runway on TWC, which he believes  is the "natural home" for this biopic.  He also bought fashion house Halston in 2007, in an attempt to revive the label, and is married to the designer Georgia Chapman.

Speaking to Hollywood Reporter earlier this year about the film Weinstein said"Yves Saint Laurent’s unmatched vision, ambition and business savvy continue to spark intrigue in the eyes of the world," Weinstein said. "The personal and business relationship shared between him and Pierre Berge only added further depth to his story. We feel that Jalil Lespert’s film will perfectly capture these combined elements."

Meanwhile, Speaking to French newspaper Le Figaro in 2012  Berge said of the forthcoming film "YSL’s story is a ‘bigger than life’ type of story. It is also one of the few subjects which is ‘so French’ and, at the same time, internationally appealing," he said.

He added, "I have often been asked to make a fiction film about Yves and myself, but I’ve never been convinced of the various projects. When Lespert came to me with his sensitivity, his enthusiasm, his creative vision, I realized that I had before me the director able to tell this story.  I told him yes." Bergé  also commented on the strong resemblance Niney has to his former companion, revealing that he almost greeted him: "Welcome Yves".

As a  valued source of information for the film, Bergé is the head of the Pierre Bergé-Saint Laurent Foundation - created to "prolong the history of the House of Saint Laurent", while conserving a collection of 20,000 haute couture designs, accessories and sketches "that bear witness to 40 years of Yves Saint Laurent's creativity".

Part of the production will be shot at the foundation which houses the late designer’s atelier as well as 5,000 garments, 15,000 accessories and 35,000 sketches. Meanwhile, PPR, the luxury group who now owns and exploits the Saint Laurent brand around the world, is staunchly supporting Jalil Lespert’s film. "We are the only ones allowed to use Yves Saint Laurent’s dresses, sketches, designs and all his creations which will look amazing on the big screen." commented SND sales chief Lionel Uzan, (The French based sales agent recruited by Weinstein).

Referring to the picture as the "official YSL film." Uzan added, "Making a movie about the greatest fashion designer of all time without the ability to show the dresses would be like making La Vie En Rose without having Piaf songs."

The life of YSL is one of rags to riches, passion and pain.  The professional life of the artist and icon blossomed by the age of eighteen, when he gained the attention of French Vogue and began with Christian Dior. His first year at Dior was comprised of  mundane tasks, but season after season his sketches were chosen by Dior. By the age of 20 Yves became the head designer for the House of Dior, after Dior's death at the of age fifty-seven.

Still the genius of Saint Laurent did not surpass life’s obstacles . He was drafted by the French military into the Algerian War of Independence  and subsequently fired by Dior. After bullying and misery in the army, he subsequently checked himself into a military hospital where he received shock treatments, psychedelic drugs and sedatives.  In later life Yves he traced his mental illness and drug addictions back to that hospital stay. It wasn't until he met partner Pierre Berge that his life evolved into something productive and beautiful.

Throughout his career and as fitting testament to his genius, Yves was the recipient of many awards. In 1983, Saint Laurent became the first living fashion designer to be honored by the Metropolitan Museum of Art with  his own exhibition. In 2001 he was awarded the rank of Commander of the Légion d'Honneur

In 2002 he made a graceful exit from the fashion industry with a memorable farewell show . The doors slid shut on his active career with a final couture collection.  The show was attended by 2,000 attendees at the Pompidou Centre (and the several thousand more outside in front of a giant screen)  who were lucky enough to witness an incomparable career summation.

Back in 2011 a documentary about YSL, Pierre Thoretton's L'AMOUR FOU caused a stir. An Official Selection of the Toronto and Tribeca Film Festivals, the documentary sees Pierre Berge, reflect on the extravagant history of  his personal relationship with YSL. Framed around the 2009 auction of the priceless, elaborate art collection amassed by Yves and Pierre personally over several decades, the documentary provides an unprecedented look at the life of the mythic personality, whose personal life matched his public for elegance, extravagance and passion.