Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. France/Japan/Switzerland, 2009. Eurowide Film Production, Hexagon Pictures, Filmazure, Canal+, TPS Star, Wild Bunch, Région Ile-de-France, Cinémage 3, Centre National de la Cinématographie. Screenplay and dialogue by Chris Greenhalgh, Adaptation by Carlo De Boutiny, Jan Kounen, based on the novel Coco & Igor by Chris Greenhalgh. Cinematography by David Ungaro. Produced by Chris Bolzli, Claudie Ossard. Music by Gabriel Yared. Production Design by Marie-Helene Sulmoni. Costume Design by Chattoune, Fab. Film Editing by Anny Danche. Toronto International Film Festival 2009
The lesser known of the two big-screen Coco Chanel films of 2009 is not as accessible but is sexier than Coco Before Chanel (a year before, an unwatchable TV-movie biopic was also made starring Shirley MacLaine). Here, Anna Mouglalis plays the architect of the twentieth-century fashion industry past the point of emotional hardening that the other film sees her developing into; she is already wealthy and famous, her name synonymous with haute couture, her sinewy figure and haughty bone structure like the gleaming lacquered black lines that permeate her home décor. She attends the historic concert in 1913 when Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite Of Spring” is met with a disastrously riotous response from Parisian audiences, in one performance veritably giving birth to modern music of the twentieth century. Seven years later, amid World War I, Chanel finds Stravinsky (Mads Mikkelsen) living as a penniless Russian exile in Paris and, being a great admirer of his work, invites him to live in her country estate with his wife and gaggle of children in order to further develop his compositions without financial worry. They’re both brilliant and gorgeous artists, while Stravinsky’s wife is ailing and always looks angry; you can pretty much guess where it is going from there. Possessed of fine production values and terrific performances, the film fails to stay on fire once it indulges in the love affair between the two leads, but it does boast some incredibly bold strokes. The opening “Rite Of Spring” sequence takes a good twenty minutes (if you have no other interest in the film you should at least watch this part), recreating not only Nijinsky’s choreography with the Ballets Russes but actually giving you the feeling of history madly changing directions. The rest of the film is diverting but not quite as breathtaking: Mouglais and Mikkelsen have chemistry but their affair reveals nothing particularly fascinating about their characters to say that it is something we feel compelled by or an intimate part of. Still, it is a very handsome film, and does such an ample job of showing both of these titans at their drawing tables that devotees of theirs will be pleased.