In the midst of Fashion Week season, a film is released that puts fashion in the background to talk about love. 'L’amour Fou' (literally 'mad love'), is released on September 22nd in Paris and puts the spotlight on the intricate, 50 year relationship between Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé. French film maker Pierre Thoretton dug into archives and created the documentary after Yves Saint Laurent passed away to look at a more intimate side of the very public couple. Dazed Digital met up with Monsieur Thoretton in his office on Paris’ left bank to talk about true love.
Dazed Digital: How did you get in film?
Pierre Thoretton: Well, you might see me in Saint Germain now, but it’s not always been this way. I was initially a builder; I started working as an artist, and then an opportunity opened up to work in picture, which I took immediately. And life moves forward, I started making films, but I’m totally self-taught.
DD: The film is being released in Paris on the 22nd has already been introduced to an American audience -- how was that?
Pierre Thoretton: It was premiered at the Toronto film festival, and was a huge success. There was even a standing ovation, which allowed me to make peace with myself. It was a wonderful experience. People, actors came to congratulate me about my success even though they didn’t know me – that’s what I like about Anglo-Saxon countries. In France there is a real sense of social caste.
DD: How did you meet Pierre Bergé ?
Pierre Thoretton: I’ve known him for almost ten years. Years back, I was stuck for money, an exhibition I was working on fell through, and the grandmother of one of my children, Catherine Deneuve put me in touch with him.
Pierre Bergé has always helped young creativity. And so he helped me; and from then on and a tradition started: every Thursday we would go to Brasserie Lipp in Saint Germain and have lunch for 1h15 – and that lasted for years.
The film was almost a conclusion to this long discussion about their life, art, literature and the consistence of an existence.
People say the film was a commission by Mr Bergé, which is absolutely not true.
DD: So it was just out of sheer interest for their love story?
Pierre Thoretton: Yes, I started making a film about the art collection they had purchased over years – but I soon realized that what made the most sense was them. The collection was all them, it was their œuvre, it was an intimate reflection of their couple, not a demonstration of power or money. It was entirely led by their taste, by their desire to be surrounded by things they love.
DD: And the title, l’amour fou, mad love ?
Pierre Thoretton:I chose it myself – it is also the title of a book by André Breton and a film by Jacques Rivette. But that’s not what it was about. It’s just that their relationship was mad love. 50 years, that’s just mad.
And that’s what we all want – true love. But we are lied to from childhood, in fairy tales we learn that things start off badly and end happily ever after – but that’s usually the other way round. Things start of perfectly nicely and then you have to resist catastrophe.
DD: How did you go about making the film? Did Pierre Bergé give you full access to his personal archives?
Pierre Thoretton:Yes absolutely. He has collected mountains of archives, he had collected everything since day one because he believed in him, he was absolutely convinced that Saint Laurent would be a timeless idol.
And so everything was kept in warehouses, and i was allowed to rummage through everything. And it was incredible, the pictures were shot by their friends William Klein, Helmut Newton, who later on became extremely famous themselves.
DD: Although Yves Saint Laurent made a career in fashion, the film talks very little about this universe. Why?
Pierre Thoretton: Yes, It almost doesn’t talk about fashion at all; I wanted to make a universal film giving the keys to a love story. You know, I’ll go home, look at my wife whom I’ve been with for 12 years and realize the importance of staying together for 50. I wanted to talk about this gigantic, very public love story, there’s something in there for everyone.
DD: But the film doesn’t delve into being a homosexual couple in the 60s…
Pierre Thoretton:I didn’t want to get into that, they were a couple, they were in love. Love is a beautiful thing to have in your life. A long-term love story isn’t about mad passion but building something with a common goal.
DD: Although you don’t talk about fashion, did you learn anything about this environment?
Pierre Thoretton:Yes, I found out that it is an extremely tough, ruthless world; I realized how much pressure designers face. They have to come up with a collection, on a set date and then deliver it to a public ready to rip it to shreds.
Yves Saint Laurent sensed this pressure but was shielded by Pierre Bergé who dealt directly with the financial side of things.
DD: You say the film gives keys to ‘le grand amour’ (true love, literally ‘the big love), did you find out anything about yourself?
Pierre Thoretton: Yes, I try to be more accepting, less bossy with my family and children. I realize I am surrounded with people who love me. And if you want to last, you can’t have bosses. Like Saint Laurent and Bergé – they completed each other’s weakness and strengths.
L'Amour is released in French cinemas today