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Yves Saint Laurent 5, Avenue Marceau 75116 Paris

It's widely agreed that haute couture came to an official end last year when Yves Saint Laurent announced he was closing his custom dressmaking business after over 40 years. David Teboul's behind-the-scenes look is a companion piece to "Yves Saint Laurent -- Time Regained," but is less riveting as a free-standing experience.

With:
With: Yves Saint Laurent, Anne-Marie Munoz, Catherine Deneuve, Loulou de la Falaise, Pierre Berge, Laetitia Casta.

It’s widely agreed that haute couture came to an official end last year when Yves Saint Laurent announced he was closing his custom dressmaking business after over 40 years. Like a respectful doc about a specific and lovely patch of rain forest before it’s obliterated, David Teboul’s behind-the-scenes look at the arcane but admirable activities of a workshop dedicated to style, quality, tradition and innovation answers the question “Why do haute couture dresses cost so much, anyway?” Companion piece to Teboul’s “Yves Saint Laurent — Time Regained” nicely complements that excellent film but is less riveting as a free-standing experience.

Docu gets off to an amusing start as faithful client Catherine Deneuve, being fitted for a few new suits, is fussed over by half-a-dozen tailors and seamstresses while carrying on an animated discussion about the hens and a turkey that were attacked by a fox at her country house. The contrast between stratospheric luxury and down-to-earth laments is both touching and funny.

With its privileged vantage on a Saint Laurent summer collection from inception to runway, fly-on-the-wall docu follows the architectural “building” of each dress, much like making a movie. As his crew of seamstresses strives to translate his vision, the moody, quietly imperious Saint Laurent is the screenwriter-director to whom all defer to for the tiniest detail — half a centimeter here, an embroidery stitch there.

Much like being an outsider on a film set, the painstaking business is both fascinating and tedious. The analogy with movie-making holds right down to the garments that don’t “work” and end up on the cutting-room floor. There’s very little glamour in the process — the talented women who do the actual sewing are borderline frumpy. Only the final result, if successful, shimmers and flows.

Yves Saint Laurent 5, Avenue Marceau 75116 Paris

France

Production: A Movimento Prod., Canal Plus, Transatlantic Video (Paris) production, in association with WDR, with participation of CNC, French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, TV5. (International sales: Doc & Co., Paris.) Produced by Christian Baute. Executive producers, Dominique Andreani, Anna Glogowski, Pierre de Rohan-Chabot. Directed, written by David Teboul.

Crew: Camera (color, Betacam SP), Caroline Champetier; editor, Martine Giordano; sound (Dolby), Laurent Malan, Fabien Krzyzanowski, Olivier Do Hu. Reviewed at Viennale Film Festival, Vienna, Oct. 26, 2002. Running time: 85 MIN.

With: With: Yves Saint Laurent, Anne-Marie Munoz, Catherine Deneuve, Loulou de la Falaise, Pierre Berge, Laetitia Casta.

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