Behind-the-scenes intrigue over rival French films depicting life of Yves Saint Laurent

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The iconic French designer, who died in 2008, is the subject of two forthcoming films by French directors. One production has the full backing of Saint Laurent's former companion and business partner Pierre Bergé. The other does not and was nearly cancelled, despite being widely regarded as the more artistically interesting of the two films. As Emmanuel Burdeau argues, the story raises important issues not just about Bergé's influence in the world of French cinema but about the ability of any director to make a film involving famous figures without their approval and backing.

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In recent months two separate films have been under preparation about the life of the iconic French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, who died in 2008. One of them, entitled Saint Laurent, is directed by Bertrand Bonello, the other, called Yves Saint Laurent, by Jalil Lespert. On the face of it, the rivalry between the two films should simply be one of artistic merit and box-office success.