If It Weren’t for Catherine Deneuve, the YSL Documentary L’Amour Fou Wouldn’t Have Happened

L’Amour Fou (Crazy Love), the extraordinary documentary about the love affair—sometimes crazy!—between Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé, opens in limited release nationwide on May 13, starting with New York’s The Paris Theatre. Brutally honest and ruthlessly melancholy, the film doesn’t just tug at the heartstrings; it yanks them out and ties them in a bow. So beautifully told is their story that it’s hard to imagine it almost didn’t happen. It took a personal recommendation by Catherine Deneuve and a giant leap of faith by Bergé for it to see the light of day, as the film’s director Pierre Thoretton explains (via translator)…

Is this the first time their love story has been documented on film?
You’re the first to ask me this. Absolutely. There have been films made on Yves Saint Laurent fashion, but never on their love story. Luckily, at the time I didn’t know anything about fashion. The only thing I’d had were disastrous love stories. (Laughs.) Not really.

When you started, your goal was to only document the auction of their belongings following Saint Laurent’s death.
Yes, I started off making a film on Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé’s homes and their [art] collection, but it was turning out very boring.

At what point did you decide you wanted to make it a more personal story?
When I started talking to the art dealers that sold them the work, the objects. They talked to me about how the transactions went down, rather than the objects themselves, and the relationship between Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé. Yves Saint Laurent would see something he liked, so he would call Pierre Bergé—this was before cellphones—and ask him to please come down. In 15 minutes he was there and they’d be looking at the object together. These dealers would tell me about their relationship and their love story. So I said to myself, it’s a love story first and foremost. I called Pierre Bergé and I asked him if I could do it on that instead. He thought about it and gave me an answer ten days later. He said yes.

Had you met Yves Saint Laurent before filming?

Did you know him?
No, I think no one knew him very well, except Pierre Bergé.

What was your impression of him before you made the film, and after?
I was very moved by their entire story and by Yves Saint Laurent, who existed in another sphere. He’s like an angel. He’s extremely moving.

As I watched the film, he did seem to float on air, thinking and feeling, but hardly speaking…
That’s why I say that he’s like an angel. It’s very strange. The world was completely foreign to him, in a sense. He was frightened by the world and by what surrounds us.

Did you want to change people’s perceptions of him when you made the film?
I’m hoping that it can change the perception of him, but also our perceptions of ourselves. And to show that stories of life and love are really not fairy tales. They take work.

Pierre Bergé’s reputation is sometimes difficult, but it doesn’t look like you had much difficulty.
From the moment he said yes, there were really no difficulties working with him. But I did have an advantage, which is that I knew him already. I met him through my son’s grandmother.

Catherine Deneuve?

That’s a very good connection.
She’s the connection! (Laughs.)

I also thought it was very nice how you chose not to focus much on Yves Saint Laurent’s addictions. Pierre talked about it some, and everyone knows about it, but it wasn’t the focus.
I’m not an English tabloid. I don’t care to show people’s depraved states. A guy with his pants down and drunk on the balcony, that’s not my cup of tea.

What was the most challenging aspect of making the film, and the most rewarding?
Editing was the most challenging.

Yes, no one likes editing!
And the reward was to have succeeded, more or less.

With your next film, will you stay on the subject of Yves Saint Laurent? Or are you finished?
Finished. I think there are other people who will make films about him. There were some in the past and there will be some in the future. I was really interested in doing a film about a love story, and I did that. The film is not mine anymore, it’s yours. So, if you have an idea?