MUBI UK film review: Yves Saint Laurent: The Last Collections
The man behind the legend7
Roxy Simons | On 30, Oct 2019
Director: Olivier Meyrou
Cast: Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Bergé
Watch Yves Saint Laurent: The Last Collections online in the UK: MUBI UK
Yves Saint Laurent’s business partner, and former lover, Pierre Bergé watches over him from behind a door, observing the fashion icon’s every movements while he examines his latest collection. At first the camera is focused on the fashion auteur’s attentive gaze on the models parading before him, but then it pulls away and onto the business mastermind, out of the way yet always watching him like a hawk. This is the defining shot in Olivier Meyrou’s fly-on-the-wall documentary, which shows the two men at the height of the fashion house’s fame in a refreshingly honest light.
Filmed between 1998 and 2001, The Last Collections was originally set for release in 2005 but Bergé put a stop to it ever being seen by the public, without having watched it himself. Because it captured the most intimate moments in the two men and their workers’ everyday lives, Bergé put a stop to its release by claiming the work was for Meyrou’s personal archives and was never intended to be seen. It was only in 2015, two years before his death and seven years after Saint Laurent’s passing, that the businessman changed his mind, and allowed the film to come out.
Watching the film, it is understandable to see why Bergé wanted to put a stop to it. Ruthless and firm, the businessman often uses his status to make sure everything happens the way he expects it to. Before one runway presentation starts, the businessman is seen berating his staff over the amount of press allowed to be at the show. Demanding to see the list of approved photographers and complaining about how they were meant to come to a showcase earlier in the day, Bergé doesn’t mince his words as he shouts over loud music.
It is only when the businessman is with Saint Laurent that he is seen as less of a callous boss; Bergé defers to his judgement and does all he can to make his vision come to life. While he acts as a stage manager for Saint Laurent, it’s obvious how much respect Bergé has for the designer. In one scene he gushes about the fashion prodigy’s innovative line of suits for women, while in another, he reworks a show line-up so that a particular model can wear the dress that Saint Laurent thinks is perfect for her to showcase. There is a genuine admiration between the two men, which is fascinating to witness.
The great man himself remains a mostly silent figure in the documentary, as scenes in both colour and black-and-white show the designer in his natural environment. While others speak exceptionally high of him throughout the film, and he is seen creating an outfit, Saint Laurent is often portrayed as a fidgety and withdrawn observer. The only time this doesn’t seem to be the case is when his favourite model comes in to work with him again, prompting a bright, childlike smile to erupt on his face. His joy is palpable and genuinely lovely to see, as it’s hard not to be disconcerted by the designer’s general state of being during the rest of the film.
While it seemed like The Last Collections would never see the light of day, it is fantastic that it did so that we could see Saint Laurent and Bergé as more than the legends they have come. This is especially true of the former, because, while his genius cannot be understated, it almost feels like he is a bystander in his own fashion house. It’s an image we would never have been able to see, or even imagine, without this captivating, intimate examination of the pair.
Yves Saint Laurent: The Last Collections is available on MUBI UK, as part of a £9.99 monthly subscription.