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“I haven’t seen the other film”

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Bertrand Bonello • Director


- CANNES 2014: French director Bertrand Bonello returns to the competition in Cannes with a biography of famous Yves Saint Laurent. Cineuropa gathered together his comments on the Croisette

Bertrand Bonello  • Director

The director of House of Tolerance [+see also:
film review
interview: Adèle Haenel
film profile
, Bertrand Bonello, is returning to Cannes in competition with a biography of famous Yves Saint Laurent, Saint Laurent [+see also:
film review
film focus
Q&A: Bertrand Bonello
film profile
. Cineuropa gathered together his comments on the Croisette.

Cineuropa: What was the impact of Jalil Lespert’s film on the development of your film? Did you try and distinguish yourself?
Bertrand Bonello: I didn’t watch the other film. I concerned myself minimally about timing and the unfortunate coincidence of the topic, which obviously had economic consequences, especially as there are now two films on the topic on the market at the same time. I prefer to concentrate on my own film and to just speak about my work. I can say that the existence of another film freed us from traditional biopic traps allowing us to make the film in the way we really wanted to. Jalil Lespert’s film in many ways presented a great opportunity for our creative process.

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Why did you choose to tell the story of this period, which is the darkest in the story of Yves Saint Laurent?
The question of timeframe is asked immediately. How do you look into someone’s life in just two and a half hours? Not just when it comes to an illustrious character such as Yves Saint Laurent, but anyone? The chosen decade seemed to be the most significant for the man and the artist. He is still young and the end opens up to a story, which will continuously be written following this. Everything is decided in this moment.

What were your base intentions tackling this story?
To quote Olivier Père, our Arte partner: “it is a film, which goes from documentary to artistic piece of work” These two aspects, which cohabitate, that’s exactly what we wanted to do. Even working in 35 mm in order to find satisfaction with cinema again. It gave the team the impression that we were working on an important piece of work telling the story of an important man. The 35 mm also offers a better choice of colours and textures, which better suit the work of an artist and which pay better homage to the subject. Unlike what you might think, it doesn’t cost that much more than digital. 

Why did Pierre Berger not authorise this version? According to you, what is so scandalous?
We defended the film we wanted to make during its entire development including when we approached Pierre Berger, but he had already expressed support for Jalil Lespert’s film. The problems we faced did not stop the existence of this film and Pierre Berger did not authorize it, but he didn’t oppose its release either, which he could have done. I would like to point out that our project came before, even if the film will be released at a later date on the big screen. I do not think there was something scandalous behind the refusal.

How did you choose the couple of actors?
Gaspard Ulliel and Jérémie Renier have known each other for a long time. There was an almost sensual chemistry between them, which I liked and which I needed for the story, because when I introduce them it is 1967. Yves and Pierre are already intimate and the actors had to be able to communicate this to the public in a credible way straight away. 

The film spends little time watching Yves Saint Laurent work. Why this choice which seems to complicate things when you are depicting an artistic creator?
It is not a film about work. It is a film about creation. On the screen, you still see Yves draw and this is him working. I preferred to do a long atelier scene at the beginning of the film where we see him touch material and understand his relationship with it, but then especially I concentrated on drawing, I didn’t want to be redundant and keep on showing him doing manual work.

Did the Saint Laurent label allow you to access his collections or his original drawings?
We were not given access to anything except for his private collections, which we rented out for the film. We had to research the rest, search for material from the time… A huge endeavour! 

(Translated from French)

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