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HindustanTimes Wed,17 Sep 2014

Biopics fest: the life and times of Dickens, YSL, Grace Kelly

Gautaman Bhaskaran , Hindustan Times  Chennai, February 18, 2014
First Published: 15:59 IST(18/2/2014) | Last Updated: 16:20 IST(18/2/2014)

Of late, cinema appears to have become biopic. There has been a string of films about the life and times of great men and women, sometimes not so great - depending on your perception.

We just saw The Wolf of Wall Street, based on the story of an American stockbroker, Jordon Ross Belfort. Fascinatingly narrated, the movie told us how Belfort (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) rose and fell - right into prison, where he stayed for 22 months, charged with financial fraud.

In May, Cannes will open with Grace of Monaco, on the painful transition of Hollywood star Grace Kelly -- played by Nicole Kidman -- from being a darling of the masses to a sedate homemaker in the palace of Monaco as the wife of Prince Rainier III.

A still from Grace of Monaco.


Two more biopics are ready to hit theatres. One is on the celebrated French fashion designer, Yves Saint Laurent - who was well known for his stylish clothes as he was for his range of incredible perfumes. At the centre of this film, Yves Saint Laurent, is the relationship that the gay designer shared with his business partner, Pierre Berge. He once said, "You have the talent, and I will take care of the rest". The chord was struck and a wonderful relationship began.

While Saint Laurent was regarded as one of the greatest names in fashion history, Berge was the numbers man - quite akin to Ismail Merchant and James Ivory. Merchant was the business genius (who could, I am told, get men to work for free with a sumptuous meal he prepared) and Ivory was the creative guy, and together they made some marvellous cinema.

Laurent is credited with pulling couture out of the ashes in the 1960s, and also with giving a respectable stamp to pret-a-porter.  He gave women their first tuxedo suit and was known for using non-white models. Laurent began his career by becoming the assistant to Christian Dior, another great Parisian fashionista, later taking over the empire after Dior died. It was later that Berge and Laurent created their own brand and firm, Yves Saint Laurent.

Directed by Jalil Lespert, the movie begins with Laurent's death in 2008 and travels on a flashback mode with the young man leaving the land of his birth, Algeria, to arrive in Paris, the Mecca of Style.

Berge is still alive, and he cooperated with Lespert, parting with Laurent's original sketches and even his glasses.  The film has a glamorous look with Paris' ancient bridges over the Seine bathed in moonlight -- and whole city looking so ethereal.

Also coming is Ralph Fiennes' biopic on Charles Dickens, titled The Invisible Woman. Fiennes himself acts as Dickens. Like any writer, Dickens was a lonely man - whose engagement with actors was about his only social interaction. Described by one critic as the rock of the Victorian era, he was more popular than the Queen of England, and his books were the pinnacle of that age.

Nelly was Dickens' muse. Her gushing admiration for him first attracted Dickens to her, and he began a secret love affair with her, fully aware of what that relationship with an underage girl could lead to.

Based on Claire Tomalin's 1990 biography of the same name, The Invisible Woman has Felicity Jones essaying Nelly.
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