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Review: Long-awaited Yves Saint Laurent documentary ‘Celebration’ provides rare access

Yves Saint Laurent, ‘Celebration’
Yves Saint Laurent in the documentary “Celebration.”
(KimStim)

During the waning days of traditional Parisian haute couture, Pierre Bergé, the business partner and former romantic partner of the last great haute couturier, Yves Saint Laurent, invited filmmaker Olivier Meyrou to document their world. Meyrou filmed over the course of several years, from 1998 and 2001, but when a version screened in 2007, Bergé sued and blocked the release, unhappy with his portrayal. That film, “Celebration” is finally able to be seen, more than a decade after Saint Laurent’s death, two years after Bergé’s.

This observational documentary is a tribute to the incredible craft of haute couture, meticulously fussed and fitted and fretted over by Saint Laurent, an army of seamstresses and Bergé. Though it’s difficult to watch the legendary designer in such a frail state, his relationships with the models and seamstresses and dedication to his art is inspiring. “I’m the last one,” he says, of his dying craft.

Bergé emerges as the most fascinating character in the film: strident and bossy, the man who keeps the ship moving as Saint Laurent is fading. He’s incredibly entertaining to watch in this loose narrative, which often switches to black and white and is underscored by a monotonous electronic score.

The film feels like a nonfiction “Phantom Thread,” with Saint Laurent the bespectacled quiet genius of fit and form, Bergé serving as both the tart business manager companion and sometimes manipulative lover. The peek into this world, at this time, feels like a rare treat, an unearthed gem released from a vault.

‘Celebration’
In French with English subtitles

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 13 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Royal, West Los Angeles; Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena; Laemmle Town Center, Encino
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