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Hollywood and fashion collide: A look into the first film by Saint Laurent

By Florence Julienne


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Strange way of life, Pedro Almodovar. Credits: Saint Laurent Productions.

Strange Way of Life, by Madrid director Pedro Almodovar, is the first short film produced by the Saint Laurent (Kering) production company. Released in cinemas on 16 August 2023, the film stars signature costumes by the luxury brand and a sleek aesthetic.

The story follows two cowboys, played by Ethan Wake and Pedro Pascal, who are pitted against each other by life (the former is a sheriff searching for the latter's murderous son) but who have been united by passion for 25 years.

This queer western is the first film produced by Saint Laurent Productions, which was created on 22 February 2023 as a subsidiary of the fashion house. While its primary focus is on the production of films for the cinema, according to the company directory, the company does not have any employees.

The tone is set by Saint Laurent Production on the film's poster and in its first credits panel, where it states "Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello presents" a film by Almodovar. The brand acts as associate producer, and thus holds the rights to the film. It is also responsible for the costumes. This is a step up from sponsorship (product placement), which is financing to appear on screen, but which does not confer any rights.

This is the case, for example, of Almodovar's second short film, The Human Voice, starring Tilda Swinton, which succeeds the western. In the introductory scene, we clearly recognise Balenciaga's ball gowns (a futuristic red crinoline from the spring/summer 2020 collection), then a jacket by Dries Van Noten, an enormous bottle of Chanel number 5, and finally, we hear a "where's my Chanel bag?".

What kind of artistic freedom is there when a brand produces a film?

In reality, it is the same as when an entrepreneur or similar private organisation sells a media group. Saint Laurent Productions plans to produce more films with other renowned directors: David Cronenberg and Paolo Sorrentino. The question posed by this new type of producer is obviously artistic freedom in relation to the image that a brand wishes to give of itself and which can prove to be restrictive. Indeed, the press release issued by the company stated that "all the company's films feature costumes by Anthony Vaccarello for Saint Laurent". In this context, it's hard to imagine a story of social misery. The risk, on a large scale, is the sanitisation of cinematographic images.

Strange Way of Life is a polished film: Pedro Pascal's apple-green jacket, the close-up of the drawer with white underwear, the sheriff's pinstripe tennis suit, and so on. "I've never seen cowboy boys so well-dressed," said one viewer in a commentary on AlloCiné. If the story is reminiscent of Brokeback Mountain, the aesthetic is more reminiscent of the films of Tom Ford, an artistic director who turned his back on fashion after selling his brand to devote himself once again to the seventh art.

After the explosion of fashion films during the Covid period, the omnipresence of fashion labels on the red carpet (Cannes Festival, Oscars, Césars, etc.) and the waltz of actor/actress muses, it's hardly surprising that luxury brands are taking on cinematic challenges. Saint Laurent is right at the forefront of this development.

This article originally appeared on FashionUnited.FR. Translation and edit by: Rachel Douglass.

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