Unlike the clothes, though, the film is shapeless, running at its subject from all directions but never quite reaching its core.
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The screenplay... seems to generally lack a throughline or focus, coasting from party scenes full of drugs and alcohol to work-related drama but rarely managing to get inside the head of the self-destructive character the designer had become by the 1970s.
The upside for Saint Laurent’s admirers is that Bonello’s film reflects more of the designer’s tortured creative drive in its dark onyx surfaces; it’s the slightly deranged auteur portrait that a fellow artist and iconoclast deserves.
The trajectory of success and excess followed by last act redemption is familiar to the point of parody, and the ploys with time come over as gimmicky attempt to inject an element of surprise into the otherwise predictable narrative.
Bonello's decision to show rather than tell keeps the audience on its toes.
Superficiality reigns here. Arguably, that should dominate a movie about a fashion designer. But fashion shows run 10-20 minutes, not two and a half hours.
Perhaps through time this hallucinatory quasi-dream of a biopic will grow in stature, but as first impressions go, the film loves itself so much it renders itself beautiful, but utterly shallow.
Saint Laurent is a well made but bafflingly airless and claustrophobic film.
No matter how much Bertrand Bonello varies his split screens, triptychs, and geometric screen divisions, he forgets that one of the most fashionable virtues is knowing when to leave.
For all its visual fizz, Bonello’s film, which he co-wrote with Thomas Bidegain, tells us nothing about the designer save the usual pompous/concessive hero-worship.