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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
When Chanel first brings Igor to see the piano in her home, he sits down to play a piece of music. The piece he plays is a duet written by Stravinsky, and though it seems like Stavinsky us sitting down to play the song it would be impossible for him to do so, since the range is both in the higher, lower and middle register of the keyboard. See more »
the Modern world under a wet blanket...it's all gorgeous and tempting, but thin, too
Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky (2009)
It begins with the shocking (at the time) premier of the 1913 Russian composer Igor Stravinsky's great ballet, "Rite of Spring," that resulted in a minor riot in the theater (police were called, people were out of their seats and shouting). In a way, this recreation justifies the film right there--it's a bold and believable staging of the original, which has huge importance in the history of music and dance.
Then there is a party after the war, with typical early 1920s abandonment. A new era has arrived, and Stravinsky and Chanel meet.
The rest might seem to be history, but it's not. The whole rest of the film is really fiction, overall, a supposed affair between the two, and the supposed results of it in their work (Chanel No. 5 and some of Stravinsky's middle period works).
It's a slow unfolding, in part because there is little to work with. The first half hour is made up of just two scenes (the ballet and the party). Then there are mostly quiet and upscale domestic situations, some intimacies, some quiet times between. The period details are pretty wonderful, and the filming is respectfully beautiful, much like a Merchant Ivory film (which might be set in the same general period).
Acting? This is a puzzle. Both Chanel (French actress Ann Mouglalis) and Stravinsky (Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen) play everything with painful restraint. Who's to say exactly what these people were like, but surely the music is nothing if not crazy for the times (and beautifully crazy, for sure), and the fashions were nothing if not radical (and beautifully so)? But things develop as if everyone is psychotically shy and inhibited.
Most of you know there was another Coco Chanel movie released this same year, "Coco before Chanel," about the young woman's life before her fame, and in a way, the Coco there played by Audrey Tatou makes more sense. That movie was imperfect, too, and it might be said that between the two, a glimpse of the real woman might be possible, which is in a way remarkable enough. The addition of Stravinsky and his music is compelling on an artistic level, but not a dramatic one.
The movie, in its own way, tries to be romantically dramatic. The camera moves around people as they speak, and follows them into rooms and around corners. The music (mostly Stravinsky's) is vivid and rich (and Modern), and the sets are filled with plain old prettiness--wallpaper and light through doorways and a room full of flower petals (leading, we find out, to perfumes). It's all a great place to end up for an evening.
If only the company were more interested, and interesting.
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