Le Smoking

Yves Saint Laurent: His Life and Times
Courtesy of Empire Pictures USA

Documentaries about fashion may seem tailored for a specific audience -- one that can actually afford haute couture, or perhaps an audience attuned to the bitches, er, personalities of the fashion world. But the story of Yves Saint Laurent should be fascinating to anyone who wears clothes. This weekend, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston will screen two documentaries on Saint Laurent, the titan of '60s and '70s fashion who retired in 2002. The first, Yves Saint Laurent: His Life and Times, is essentially a biography. The film is a series of interviews intercut with still photos and historical footage. Growing up in Oran, Algeria, Saint Laurent informed his aunt that her dress and shoes didn't match -- he was three years old at the time. By 20, Saint Laurent was in control of the fashion house of Christian Dior, from which he was fired in 1962 after suffering a nervous breakdown following a disastrous stint in the French Army. That same year, Saint Laurent bounced back, creating his own fashion house with the help of his partner and lover, Pierre Berge.

The second film, Yves Saint Laurent: 5, Avenue Marceau, 75116 Paris, is a chronicle of the designer's last collections. Focusing on Saint Laurent's dealings with seamstresses and models during fittings, the film showcases his deep love for women. It includes a scene with actress Catherine Deneuve, whose life was especially touched by Saint Laurent.

Ultimately, maybe, we've all been touched by Saint Laurent's career. Anyone who started smoking in the '80s knows the initials YSL. YSL: His Life and Times, 7 p.m. Friday through Sunday, March 5 through 7. YSL: 5, Avenue Marceau, 75116 Paris, 1 p.m. Saturday, March 6; 5 p.m. Sunday, March 7. Brown Auditorium, 1001 Bissonnet. $6. -- Troy Schulze


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Sty Style

Contrary to Bayou City legend, Miss Ima Hogg did not have a sister named Yura or a brother named Heesa. But she did have a lovely home, Bayou Bend, around which she transformed "nothing but a dense thicket" into some of the most beautiful gardens in town. This mega-backyard is a mainstay on the Azalea Trail, a seven-stop tour devoted to royal rhododendrons and the ladies and lads who love them. Other stops include Rienzi and the River Oaks Garden Club Gardens, as well as several private residences. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, March 6 through March 14. For a complete listing of locations, call 713-523-2483 or visit www.riveroaksgardenclub.org. $5 for single admission; $20 for admission to all seven sites. -- Keith Plocek

Poet of the People

MON 3/8

As a former tenant lawyer, Martín Espada has no problem inserting politics into his poetry. He dreams of hijacking a busload of Republican tourists; he wishes la migra would arrest white people as suspected immigrants from Canada; he sings for the Zapatista movement; he ponders the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. And he does it so well. While his short poems pack the delicate power of a ninja's punch -- "A lone sheep cries out: / There are more of us than them! / The flock keeps grazing" -- his longer works sing and sing and sing with subtle repetition of words and themes. The downtrodden, the oppressed, the hungry -- these are the characters who populate his powerful verse. He reads with Ellen Bryant Voigt at 7:30 p.m. Monday, March 8. Alley Theatre, 615 Texas. For information, call 713-521-2026 or visit www.inprint-inc.org. $5. -- Keith Plocek

Back to Basics
You don't have to be a killer draftsman to make great art, but it helps

THU 3/4

As Arshile Gorky said to his art students over and over again, the essence of painting is drawing. But around the time he was saying it, that idea was quite unfashionable. Modern art was all about spontaneity -- who else but Gorky had time to work with pencil and paper when there were giant canvases to be dripped on? Now you have the chance to see how powerful, modern and even abstract mere graphite lines can get when "Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective of Drawings" opens at the Menil Collection. The work is best known for its swelling, organic forms, but Gorky was also a master of realism. No one draws the folds and creases of a shirt as well as he did. Opening preview: 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, March 4. Exhibit runs from Friday, March 5, through May 9. 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. 1515 Sul Ross. For information, call 713-525-9400 or visit www.menil.org. Free. -- Lisa Simon

Was Grandma a Cherokee Princess?

Perhaps you've got that one ancestor who made a mean corn fritter and didn't come over from Europe. Or maybe you read In the Spirit of Crazy Horse in high school and it struck a chord. Then again, maybe you had a feeling of connectedness you just couldn't shake that time you visited Mohegan Sun to play blackjack. Whatever the source of your curiosity, this week's Cherokee Nation History course will satisfy your need to know what life was like in pre-Thanksgiving America. 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, from March 6 through March 21. Rice University, Shell Oil Auditorium, 6100 Main. For information and registration, call 918-456-0671, extension 2389 or visit www.cherokeeshouston.org. Register by Thursday, March 4. $10. -- Lisa Simon

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