BERGE, GIRARD IN YSL FILM IMBROGLIO
Byline: Robert Murphy
PARIS — Bad blood boiled here Friday as Christophe Girard, director of couture strategy at LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, accused Pierre Berge of not only bending the truth, but of censorship as well, by blocking distribution of “5 Avenue Marceau,” a film documenting two years of Berge’s and Yves Saint Laurent’s daily life.
As reported, Berge, the couturier’s business partner, informed WWD last week of a decision earlier this month by the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris that thwarted distribution of the film, by Frenchman Olivier Meyrou. The court ordered Meyrou to pay Berge about $1,300 in damages.
Berge said he sought to halt Meyrou’s film because Girard, who served as Berge’s right-hand man at YSL for some two decades, “went behind his back” to have a contract drawn up to distribute his film.
“Obviously, I knew Meyrou was making a film,” said Berge. “But it was for the house’s private use. I was never told of plans to show it to the public.”
On Friday, an angry Girard claimed Berge was in the know. “His claims are absolutely not true,” Girard told WWD. “He knew what that film was all about. If you watch the footage, he says repeatedly how happy he is that Meyrou is making the film.”
Girard said Berge’s decision to block the film amounted to an act of censure. “I’m under the impression Pierre Berge is out to reestablish censure and prohibition,” said Girard. “After all these years of trying to foster young talent — and now this.”
Meyrou, contacted Friday, said he was baffled by Berge’s reaction to his work. “Nothing Mr. Berge has said is true,” said Meyrou. “I’m under the impression Berge often talks nonsense.”
Meyrou said Berge, who has not viewed a frame of the film, had granted nearly unrestricted access to himself and Saint Laurent for a 21-month period.
“He knew what we were doing,” said Meyrou. “I had a team of five to six people who worked with me. If I was granted access to Berge and Saint Laurent for 21 months, he must have known what I was up to. It was a major production.”
Meyrou said he always intended to release the film in theaters.
“What Berge is doing amounts to artistic censure,” he continued. “The film is a work of art. It is respectful of Berge and Saint Laurent. It’s an homage to their work and world. Both of them are part of the recent history of France. The public would appreciate this film.”
He added, “I feel like I’m caught in the middle of a personal duel between Girard and Berge. Berge is volatile; he has his good and bad side.”
Recently, Berge has made thinly veiled stabs at Girard, who this spring was appointed deputy mayor of Paris in charge of culture.
When a journalist at Paris weekly news magazine VSD asked Berge to comment on Girard’s recent ascension to culture chief, he likened Girard’s heading of Paris cultural activity to “Rika Zarai as minister of health.” Zarai, a chanteuse popular here in the Sixties, is known for her eccentric books on natural and holistic medicine. Berge’s bon mot circulated quickly, peppering the chatter of Paris society.
Girard said the feud with Berge dates to when he left YSL. He said he was baffled by Berge’s behavior.
For his part, Berge said he was irked Girard “acted on his own accord and for his own benefit.” He said Girard contravened French company regulations by cultivating personal benefit from the contract between YSL and Meyrou, signed by Fabienne Mandaron, deputy director general at YSL. He suggested he was considering legal action against Girard.
In its judgement, the court wrote that Meyrou’s contract with YSL “singularly benefited Christophe Girard,” who was administrator of the company producing the film, “Hold Up,” as well as a member of the board at YSL.
“Girard and Meyrou shared common interests,” said Berge. “Girard did it for Meyrou without my knowledge. They were boyfriends.”
Meyrou confirmed his personal relationship with Girard. But he called Berge’s comments a distortion of the situation. He said the film had been produced for theater distribution by French company MK2.
“I had Berge’s accord that the images I was shooting leading up to the Stade de France [where Saint Laurent feted his 40 years of creation with a gala runway presentation] could be turned into and used for a feature film.”
Countered Berge: “The scenario is simple — If I knew of this contract, why was it not signed by me? If Pierre Berge was informed, why didn’t he sign? Because I didn’t know. Everything Girard says is false. Girard acted in his own personal interests, not those of Saint Laurent.”