Celebration, Olivier Meyrou’s voyeuristic documentary about the legendary fashion designer Yves Saint-Laurent’s final couture show, has been shelved since 2007, when it was supposed to premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival. Saint-Laurent’s business partner and ex-boyfriend Pierre Bergé deemed it too unflattering and sued to stop its distribution. Now, 13 years later, Celebration is finally available for your viewing pleasure… with a few minor edits. Revealing and melancholic, it showcases the fragile, tormented soul of a true artist, arguably the last great couturier.
Unlike another documentary about the icon, Jalil Lespert’s 2014 Yves Saint Laurent, Meyrou avoids tracing the entirety of the man’s life, focusing instead on his final moments before retirement. The filmmaker’s approach is intimate, almost intrusive. Saint-Laurent disliked cameras, and it’s obvious in how awkwardly he behaves when he notices that he’s being filmed. It is also evident in the way Meyrou places his lens in spots to make it seem as if the director is spying on his subject. A pulsing, unnerving musical score accompanies the peering, prying shots. As a result, a portrait of two vastly different men emerges.
“…about the legendary fashion designer Yves Saint-Laurent’s final couture show…”
Ridden with insecurities and desperately seeking serenity, the aging Saint-Laurent seems almost confounded by his own legend, as if broken by the weight of his persona, not to mention the fact that he doesn’t seem entirely there most of the time. Grounding him in reality, or attempting to, is Bergé, resolute and pragmatic, prone to outbursts of anger (damn those photographers!) and brutally honest birthday speeches. At times, he’s manipulative and cruel, insensitive to his partner’s apparent mental and physical deterioration. It immediately becomes evident who was the artist with his head in the clouds, and who was the businessman with his feet planted firmly on the catwalk.
One thing the two had in common was their passion for fashion. Both also seem to mourn the paradigm shift, not trusting younger generations to carry on their incredible legacy. Celebration is not as controversial as its lengthy shelving may suggest. Still, it is an insightful character study, and an absolute must-watch for Saint-Laurent fans – or anyone with a remote interest in the fashion industry.
"…an insightful character study, that is an absolute must-watch for Saint-Laurent fans..."