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‘Celebration’ Review: The Final Stand of Yves Saint Laurent


Early in this century, the documentary director Olivier Meyrou, at the invitation of Pierre Bergé, spent two and a half years filming the couturier Yves Saint Laurent and his employees and associates. Bergé, of course, was one of them: Saint Laurent’s longtime business manager, hard-nosed where Saint Laurent was dreamy, is a central figure in “Celebration,” which chronicles the creation of what would be Saint Laurent’s final collection.

After a version of the film screened at the 2007 Berlin International Film Festival, Bergé took action to block its release. His move could be understood as protective. Saint Laurent, never the most robust of individuals, looks alarmingly frail in most of the footage.

The designer died in June 2008 of a brain tumor. Seeing the way he’s frequently troubled by tremors in this movie is cause to shudder. Saint Laurent is trying to hold himself together while barely aware of where he is. But when he meets a model he had not worked with in many years, he is genuinely effusive. And other times, he is almost tragically recessive.

His friend, the designer Loulou de la Falaise, seen often in the film, died shortly after Saint Laurent. Bergé, who had been a romantic partner, passed in 2017. Meyrou’s now slightly re-edited documentary is replete with arty touches — it toggles between black and white and color, and uses electronic noise bubbling up on the soundtrack to heighten tension — but it’s nevertheless a searching, sensitive and revealing portrait. Saint Laurent was essential to 20th-century culture, and “Celebration” shows the inevitable fading of glory as well as the enduring features of his life’s work.

Celebration

Not rated. In French, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 14 minutes.


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