PARIS — He’s always by the fashion designer’s side, often preceding him as he enters the room, and doesn’t seem to age as years go by.
Moujik, Yves Saint Laurent’s black-and-white French bulldog, seems to be the only character that resists the passing of time in “Celebration,” a documentary by Olivier Meyrou on the couturier’s last years at his fashion house, out on Nov. 14 in France.
“As the legend goes — I don’t know if it’s true — in order not to affect Yves Saint Laurent, every time the dog died it was replaced on the very night and kept the same name,” said Meyrou in a statement. “Moujik was eternal.”
Though shot between 1998 and 2001, the documentary is only now seeing the light of day.
The depiction of an aging, ailing Saint Laurent moments before his departure from the fashion house in 2002 is said to have incensed Pierre Bergé, Saint Laurent’s life and business partner, who blocked the release of the film.
“Whereas we had total freedom during the filming between 1998 and 2001, I realized once the film was over that Pierre Bergé and I didn’t have the same idea of what a documentary is,” explained Meyrou.
“Celebration” dives into the day-to-day activity of the Saint Laurent couture house, capturing the intense preparation of fashion shows and special celebrations.
A silent and camera-shy Saint Laurent is filmed in black and white, while other members of the couture house — the première d’atelier Madame Colette, the head of p.r. Dominique Deroche, Bergé, Loulou de la Falaise and Betty Catroux — move and talk in color.
Bergé asked the director to view the footage before its release, which Meyrou refused. As a result, despite being screened at the 57th Berlinale film festival in 2007, the documentary was banned from hitting screens.
“The film tells the story of an ending marked by physical deterioration, the moment where creation seems almost impossible,” said Meyrou. “It’s difficult to see the world you created come to an end.”
At the end of 2015, seven years after Saint Laurent’s death in 2008, Bergé finally approved the documentary’s official release, a spokeswoman for the filmmaker said. After intense restoration work — the film was shot 20 years ago on Super 16mm film — “Celebration” hits French theaters this week, produced by Hold Up Films.
“[Saint Laurent] didn’t talk very much, so I abandoned the idea of doing preparatory interviews,” said Meyrou, who described in his statement the slow process of getting the designer to accept the presence of cameras while at his work table, comparing it to waiting for a “great wildcat who, sooner or later, has to stop by the water point to drink.”
“You had to film him. His way of moving, of behaving, was a lot more enlightening than an interview would have been,” he said.
The Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent declined to comment on the release.