Paris 1913. Coco Chanel is infatuated with the rich and handsome Boy Capel, but she is also compelled by her work. Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring is about to be performed. The ... See full summary »
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Paris 1913. Coco Chanel is infatuated with the rich and handsome Boy Capel, but she is also compelled by her work. Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring is about to be performed. The revolutionary dissonances of Igor's work parallel Coco's radical ideas. She wants to democratize women's fashion; he wants to redefine musical taste. Coco attends the scandalous first performance of The Rite in a chic white dress. The music and ballet are criticized as too modern, too foreign. Coco is moved but Igor is inconsolable. Paris 1920, Coco is newly wealthy and successful but grief-stricken after Boy's death in a car crash. Igor, following the Russian Revolution is now a penniless refugee living in exile in Paris. Coco is introduced to Igor by Diaghilev, impresario of the Ballets Russes. The attraction between them is instant and electric. Coco invites Igor along with his wife - now sick with consumption - together with his four children and a menagerie of birds to stay at her new villa, Bel ... Written by
While the film presents the premiere of "The Rite of Spring" as if it took place in the beginning of the program for the evening, in fact it was preceded by another ballet, titled "Les Sylphides". "The Rite of Spring" was second on the program. See more »
Anyone who presumed that this film would be a follow-on from 'Coco before Chanel', Anne Fontaine's endearing, rags-to-riches depiction of Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel, would be mistaken. This film is director Jan Kounen's attempt to portray Coco how she really was: a mean-spirited, conceited femme fatale.
Only the avant-garde artistry of Igor Stravinsky's music is enough to mollify Coco (Anna Mouglalis). The Russian composer's controversial work repels most for being too audacious and violent, but it entrances her, and after the Russian revolution leaves Igor and his family penniless, Coco invites them to live with her. Igor accepts and thus begins a cataclysmic affair.
What begins as a 'Remains of the Day'-type attraction where Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson were at pains to disclose their true feelings for each other and could only do so through knowing glances very quickly descends into a sex-crazed love affair rivalling the one in 'Last Tango in Paris'.
A subject you can usually trust French filmmakers with, however, what's missing from the plentiful love scenes between the two is, frankly, love. In fact, their entire relationship is rather curious. It's redolent of the relationship a drug addict has with drugs: It's the feeling the substance gives that's sacrosanct, not the substance itself.
I was unmoved by what I believed should have been an intense performance for the part of Igor (Mads Mikkelsen). It is staid and lacklustre, interrupted by the occasional paroxysm when he is writing or playing music. The filming of Stravinsky's seminal piece, 'The Rite of Spring' in the grand Champs-Élysées theatre (as in actuality) is very impressive: the suspense, drama and sheer creepiness convince you that you are seeing the spectacle for real.
It may be reasonably assumed that Coco was purely a product of her insular background - provincial, orphaned, raised by nuns - but she is never worthy of pity. The only person who deserves this is Igor's wife, Katherine (Yelena Morozova). Her characterisation of a powerless woman who sees her husband slip away from her inch by inch is so full of pathos that it leaves you contemplating whether to buy a bottle of Chanel No. 5 ever again.
For all her brutality, though, there's a wonderfully dainty scene where she formulates her signature fragrance. As with everything else, she's very pernickety and it's only after playing Goldilocks that she arrives at the correct blend of the 80 ingredients.
Asked if she ever felt guilty for her deeds, Coco simply says 'No' unbearably cavalierly, which left me wondering: If she never had any humanity for herself, why should we have any for her?
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