When translated from French, l’amour fou means mad, passionate love. When witnessed in the new documentary, L’Amour Fou, it also means unyielding heartbreak, era-defining brilliance and quiet, somber mourning.

Set around the Christie’s auction of millions of dollars worth of furniture, artwork and other home decorations, the documentary is the story of Yves Saint Laurent and his lover and business partner of 50 years, Pierre Bergé.

Opening with a static black-and-white shot of the press conference where Saint Laurent announced his retirement from fashion, his placid dignity pockmarked by flashbulbs that made him flinch, the luminary designer bids farewell to a career that made him a legend.

The audience then finds themselves at Saint Laurent’s funeral as Bergé bids farewell to the man he shared his life and career with for five decades. Considering Saint Laurent and Bergé met in 1957 at Christian Dior’s funeral, it’s a fitting start to the story of their relationship – which eventually crumbled under Saint Laurent’s depression, work ethic and substance abuse – and partnership – which birthed some of the greatest fashion of the 20th century.

That initial sense of sadness and longing pervades the film, as a melancholy piano accompanies a slow pan through the home the couple once shared, lingering on a pair of Saint Laurent’s signature glasses and a handwritten note before it sweeps over the works of art – from Picasso to Greco-Roman marble statues to gilded animal figurines – studding the impeccably appointed Parisian home. These treasures comprise the sale that Berge prepares for, mustering the courage to claim he’s happy watching the art “flying off like birds to find a new perch.”

Getting deeper into their story, the film chronicles Saint Laurent’s first triumphs as the head designer of Dior, the opening of his own house in 1962 after being fired by Dior, through runway shows and nightclub outings, into home movies where Andy Warhol strolls around and Mick Jagger pecks out notes at the piano. Theirs was a life flooded with fabulousness as even their French bulldog, who was painted by Warhol, used to hit the Parisian nightclub scene with YSL at the height of the Me Decade.

But beyond the beauty and glamour, best experienced through archival footage of Saint Laurent’s shows, where the audience would greet him with thunderous applause, L’Amour Fou quickly loses steam as relics of their lives are boxed up and prepared for auction. While it’s a fascinating world to witness, the film is best when it focuses on the splendor of YSL.

Grade: B-

L’Amour Fou releases in select theaters May 20.