Coco Chanel And Igor Stravinsky

Director    Jan Kounen
Starring    Mads Mikkelsen, Anna Mouglalis, Elena Morozova, Natacha Lindinger, Grigori Manoukov, Rasha Bukvic
Release    28 SEP (US) 06 AUG (UK)    Certificate 15
2 stars


11th August 2010

French biopics, je t'aime. After La Vie En Rose, Coco Before Chanel, The Diving Bell And The Butterfly and most recently, Gainsbourg, the great and the good across the Channel are getting a thorough cinematic seeing to. Carla Bruni better watch out.

Coco Chanel And Igor Stravinsky pretty much picks up where Audrey Tautou left off in Coco Before Chanel. It picks up Coco's story after the death of her lover, 'Boy', which is exactly where Coco Before Chanel left us. By this time Coco (Anna Mouglalis) is firmly entrenched among the Parisian fashion elite, while Igor Stravinsky's work literally causes riots, and not in a good way. Coco and Igor (Mads Mikkelsen) are drawn to one another; she admires his work and offers him and his family a place to stay when they have nowhere else to go, so that Igor may continue composing.

[gallery]And so begins a steamy love affair between two of the greatest creative forces of the twentieth century. Igor's sickly wife, Catherine (Elena Morozova), must live under the same roof as the randy pair, knowing precisely what's going on. Coco is everything Catherine is not - independent, stylish, stroppy and thoroughly modern. Coco most definitely wears the expertly tailored trousers in her relationship with Igor. With all those creative juices flowing, they both produce some of the finest work of their careers, in Coco's case, Chanel No.5. Two colossal egos crammed into one relationship is not necessarily the key to a happy ever after. Inevitably tensions mount, particularly with wifey watching their every move.

Despite being a tale of forbidden passion, the film is surprisingly cold and distant, like watching through a pane of glass, an extra layer between the heart of the film and the audience. We don't particularly learn much about Coco Chanel, except that she was a haughty old cowbag. She remains an aloof but powerful enigma throughout. Anna Mouglalis can sure command a scene, she has real presence. Mikkelsen as Igor is an altogether more pensive, melancholic presence, a man deeply frustrated by his own circumstances.

For such a good looking film, it's a little stodgy. The sleek lines of Chanel's tailoring do not permeate the movie. Long lingering scenes shamble on for an eternity - patience is a must. Plot strands are picked up but never run with, such as Coco's relationship with her staff, or Igor's son who susses what his dad is up to Mademoiselle Chanel.

Visually the film is incredibly elegant, and the music, of course, is fantastic; the film acts as an ode to the craft of its protagonists. And yet, sadly, the emotional engagement required to carry the film is notably absent. The audience is not made to care what becomes of Coco and Igor, and I could muster little more than a nonchalant shrug - how very French.

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