Comparing the fruit of their labours to the efforts of the Ancient Egyptians, there is a grandiose belief held by those working for acclaimed fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent that their contribution to fashion were to be comparable in achievement to the building of the Great Pyramids.
As big as their ambitions are to contribute to creating a fashion legacy, there is too an abundance of riches in the 2007 YSL documentary Celebration which in its efforts to cover the inner workings of a couture house loses focus on its star.
Celebration follows the workings of the House of Yves Saint Laurent in his final collection. A celebration in both the legacy of the visionary designer and a time where fashion houses were put through the wringer, the examination of YSL as a man whose achievement saw him become recluse is juxtaposed against the aggression held by co-founder Pierre Berge, who to go by films representation controls the entire YSL operation.
An adoration of fashion is carried throughout the film in large parts by two female employees who take great joy in their garment making. Watching the ladies high-spirited excitement attack the silence of an empty room is joyous and functions as a stand-in for the viewer by showing everyday people work as close to a visionary like YSL.
Interviews and flashbacks are like watching a Vogue coffee table book come to life with YSL’s response to questions often met with a slow reaction, whether or not to highlight the couturiers’ anxiety running an empire or to elevate his legendary status by romanticising his struggles.
Celebration’s decision to focus on the moving parts of YSL’s operation – as if to present YSL’s absence as a representation of his timid personality – inadvertently creates a sense of aimlessness in the film and makes supporting characters more interesting than the visionary designer.
Although YSL himself becomes a casualty in terms of the films focus, fashion for those involved in Celebration is an all-consuming energy that sparks both frustration and joy and will give any admirer of haute couture a kick being able to witness the turning gears of an iconic fashion house.
Celebration: Yves Saint Laurent screens as part of the 2019 Alliance Française French Film Festival. For more information, screening locations and times, visit: www.affrenchfilmfestival.org for details.
Image: Celebration: Yves Saint Laurent (supplied)
Review: Hagan Osborne