Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky

Written by:
SCA Schulman
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Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky

Directed by: Jan Kounen
Starring: Anna Mouglalis, Mads Mikkelsen
Screenplay by: Jan Kounen, Carlo de Boutiny and Chris Greenhalgh
MPAA rating: Rated R

Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky is a beautiful film to watch. Unfortunately, its slow-moving plot and considerable length makes the movie a tedious way to spend almost two hours.

Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, the famous fashion designer, opened her first Paris shop in 1910 and died in 1971. As a testament to her lasting impact on fashion, more than forty biographies have related her journey from seamstress to fashion leader. Igor Stravinsky, the avant-garde composer, created his first work in Russia in 1907. He is most well known today for his musical creation “The Rite of Spring.” He also died in 1971.

Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky is based on the interesting fact that the two met in Paris and later had an affair. Chanel attended the infamous Paris premiere of Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” in 1913. The audience was appalled. They booed and fled the theater in the middle of the premiere performance.

Though they met briefly on that infamous occasion, it was seven years later that Chanel invited Stravinsky and his family to live at her villa. It is during this period, 1920-21, that Chanel and Stravinsky had an affair.

The styling of Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky is fabulous. It is by far the most interesting aspect of the film. The interior decor of the villas and apartments, the elegant cars, and of course, the beautiful clothing, is all stunning. It is apparent that the fashion house of Channel donated clothes and opened its archives to this movie production.

Anna Mouglalis is convincing as Chanel. Mouglalis wears the Chanel clothes beautifully. She also successfully depicts Chanel’s toughness, her creativity and her selfishness. In fact, both Chanel and Stravinsky (played by Mads Mikkelsen) are portrayed as selfish and uncontrollable.

Their self-obsession and disregard for others makes it difficult to have any empathy for them, or in fact to care about their affair. Since their affair is the basis for this movie, both the movie and the audience suffer because of this major flaw.

On the other hand, it is easy to have sympathy for Catherine Stravinsky, played delicately by Elena Morozova. Not only does Catherine have tuberculosis, but also Chanel and Stravinsky have their affair brazenly in front of her. Even more disturbing, the affair is depicted as being obvious to Catherine and Stravinsky’s children. By the time Catherine packs up the children and leaves the villa, the audience is rooting for her instead of for Chanel and Stravinsky.

Another considerable problem with the movie is the audience is forced to listen to the movie soundtrack which features both Stravinsky’s music and music composed by Gabriel Yared. It is made clear from the movie that Stravinsky was ahead of his time, and today he is considered to be a genius. “The Rite of Spring” remains a major influence for classical, contemporary and jazz musicians.

However, this is a long movie. Both Stravinsky’s music and the music composed in the style of Stravinsky are loud, discordant and lack harmony. Not only do we watch a re-creation of “The Rite of Spring,” but also there are many other scenes depicting Stravinsky playing and composing his music. The pounding of Stravinsky’s music gave this reviewer a pounding headache.

If you rented this movie, muted out most of Stravinsky’s music and focused on the beautiful clothes and lovely Belle Époque furnishings, it might be a enjoyable experience. Otherwise, spend your hour and 55 minutes doing something more worthwhile.

SCA Schulman

(c) SCA Schulman 2010

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