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Originally published Thursday, May 26, 2011 at 3:02 PM

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Movie review

Yves Saint Laurent doc elegant and elegiac

"L'Amour Fou," the elegant and elegiac new documentary about fashion designer Yves St. Laurent, directed by Pierre Thoretton, is playing at the Seven Gables in Seattle.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 3 stars

'L'Amour Fou,' a documentary directed by Pierre Thoretton. 103 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences. In French with English subtitles. Seven Gables.

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"I shall attend our collection's funeral," says Pierre Bergé, an impeccably dressed, elderly Frenchman in the elegant documentary "L'Amour Fou." He's speaking of the vast art collection acquired by him and his partner, the legendary designer Yves Saint Laurent. The two shared their lives for half a century, since Saint Laurent was a 22-year-old wunderkind at the fashion house of Christian Dior. After Saint Laurent's death from cancer in 2008, Bergé made the decision to sell the contents of their art-filled Paris home at auction. "The works will fly away like birds, and find some place else to perch," he says. (The "birds," which included works by Matisse, Picasso, Mondrian and Degas, would fetch more than 370 million euros.)

The film is, in part, the life story of Saint Laurent, with images of his colorful dresses and theatrical runway shows alongside talking-head reminiscences of his professional fall and rise (after being fired from Dior, he opened his own house and eventually became one of the biggest names in high fashion). It also recounts his struggle with depression and addiction, his love for art and beauty, and the story of what's left behind after his death — both the remarkable collection, and the man who helped him accumulate it. We see Bergé walk through their lavish apartment for the last time. "I know all of this will leave tomorrow," he says quietly, resigned to his life being forever changed.

Those looking for the wit and verve of recent fashion documentaries like "Valentino" and "The September Issue" will find something very different here: Director Pierre Thoretton gives the film a stately pace and an elegiac feel. Beautifully filmed, "L'Amour Fou" is often quite moving as it documents the dismantling of a mutual life. As we see the paintings and statues carefully crated for auction, we think of them not just as valuable objects but beautiful things, bought by a couple who wanted to live amid that beauty and whose unexpected success eventually made it possible. (Bergé notes in wonderment that after Saint Laurent famously designed a line of dresses inspired by the artist Mondrian's trademark colorblocking in the 1960s, even then "we would never have imagined owning a painting by Mondrian.")

At the end of the film, we see Bergé leaving the Paris auction house in indigo twilight, as its iron gates close behind him; alone, and unencumbered, he has said his goodbyes.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or

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