While the first biopic based on the life of Yves Saint Laurent is set to hit US theatres in June, with Pierre Niney in the title role, a second, unauthorized project focusing on the late designer's darker years premiered at Cannes last week.
French heartthrob Gaspard Ulliel plays Saint Laurent between 1967 and 1976, a time when the designer was at the height of his fame, and struggled with depression and heavy alcohol and drugs use. Directed by Bertrand Bonello, known for his sexually-explicit, adult-rated work in France, the movie is said to be far more sulfurous than Jalil Lespert's "authorized" biopic, which received the support of Saint Laurent's former romantic and business partner, Pierre Bergé.
Two biopics: 'Yves Saint Laurent' with Pierre Niney (left) and Bertrand Bonello's 'Saint Laurent' (right)
Bonello's biopic shows Saint Laurent navigating sex parties, taking cocaine and pills in nightclubs, and occasionally being cruel to his muses Betty Catroux and Loulou de la Falaise, played by newcomer Aymeline Valade and Blue is the Warmest Color star Léa Seydoux, respectively. Gaspard Ulliel is said to bare all in the movie, which also depicts his intense affair with a third man, Jacques de Bascher (played by Louis Garrell), who died of AIDS in 1983.
"Yves was born a depressive almost. He had suffered from depression from adolescence at least," Ulliel said in production notes. "His homosexuality also exposed him to mockery and hasty judgements, as did his fragility and slenderness. Part of his success undoubtedly comes from taking revenge on the hand life had dealt him," Ulliel added.
As opposed to Jalil Lespert's first biopic, Bonello was denied the right to use YSL clothing for the movie: "We had access to nothing, nothing at all, not even a shirt," said producer Eric Altmayer, "so everything you see in the film was recreated. Fantastic work was done."
Despite this surge of creativity, Saint Laurent failed to win over Cannes' tough critics: "(The film) while seductively silly and largely unmoving, does a better job than its predecessor of celebrating Saint Laurent's flamboyant artistry," wrote Variety. "Bonello's sexier number must gamble on sustained audience interest in a chilly figure whose life --notwithstanding the drugs, desires and debauchery that go with the high-fashion terrain-- wasn't extraordinarily dramatic."
Watch the first excerpt here:
Saint Laurent is one of 18 films in competition for the Palme d'Or prize at Cannes, and will be released in France on October 1. Yves Saint Laurent, starring Pierre Niney, opens in the US on June 25.