EDWARD BURNE-JONES. “The Adoration of the Magi,” 1904. On view in the Grand Palais during the Christie’s sale exhibition of the collection of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé, February 2009. Withdrawn prior to the sale by Bergé and donated to the Musée d’Orsay, see Here for the work when in situ in the library of the apartment on rue de Babylone.
“Fashions fade; Style is forever” is the tag line for the new film by Jalil Lespert about Yves Saint Laurent and his life with Pierre Bergé which I got to see yesterday with Peitor and Graham. Beautiful to look at, superb performances and a lovely score, yet I couldn’t help wondering afterward what we’d learned that we hadn’t known before about fashion, or style, or the creative process or creative people. And I think the answer has to do more with the talent of managing talent, at least as far as this film is concerned.
As Calvin Coolidge, of all people, said, “Nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent.” Talent gets squandered, lost, is dissipated in a thousand bad habits and poor choices and lack of discipline and goes unrecognized or dismissed all the time. It’s the managing of talent that matters. What’s interesting is how people like Pierre Bergé protect, encourage, nurture, love, scold, coerce and manipulate an artist. Especially once that artist gains any kind of fame or attention and has become a celebrity. Handling a celebrity is the worst job in the world, in my opinion, and anyone who’s ever had to tell a famous person bad news knows what I mean. Which is why so many clever and talented people, with no one around them willing to tell them the truth, go out and make messes of their lives.
There’s a great moment in the film when Bergé says to Saint Laurent, “You have to decide if you want to live or die. If you want to die, I can’t help you.” I think it takes courage to say that to someone. Fashion fades, yes; but so does pretty much everything else. The trick is figuring out how to make the most out of what you’ve got while you’ve got it, and not throw in the towel and give up, and for that you may need help. You may need someone around like Pierre Bergé, who’s willing to ask the hard questions, and to tell you the truth.