Double Chanel

Coco avant Chanel

The danger of autobiographical films is the chance that they may actually take away from the mystique or rub the gleam off of the legend. However, in the case of Coco Chanel, the "Chanel" brand is so powerful and influential in modern fashion history that it might be easy to forget that Chanel is the name of a remarkable woman. Coco avant Chanel attempts to trace the life of Gabrielle Chanel from her childhood when she learned sewing in a convent school, to a youth singing at cafes where she received the nickname of "Coco", and through her meteoric rise as fashion innovator. Audrey Tautou takes on the role of Gabrielle from young adulthood and it easy to appreciate the reasons for her casting. Tautou bears a similar sleek physique to the actual Gabrielle Chanel that makes her look just as graceful and smart in Coco Chanel designs and an intensity behind her eyes that sells the uncompromising passion of the genuine individual. Behind the camera is Anne Fontaine, no stranger to female-centric narratives and before this turns you away with the assumption of "chick-flick," one should bear in mind that Fontaine has chosen to follow Gabrielle Chanel's life as it influenced her creative process. In particular, how the clothing of the various men with whom she had relations throughout her life inspired her trademark, modernist women's fashions. This should in theory keep the film devolving into overt romanticism, though admittedly, it is a very fine line for Fontaine to walk. It will be interesting to see if she successfully manages to steer the film solidly on the course of Coco the artist rather than Coco the courtier.

Coco avant Chanel will be released by Sony Pictures Classics September 29th in New York and Los Angeles as Coco Before Chanel. Official website is here.

Coco & Igor

Based on the novel by Chris Greenhalgh who also adapted his book for the screen. The film obviously departs from Coco avant Chanel as it has less to do with Coco Chanel herself, but her relationship with composer Igor Stravinsky, though their attraction toward one another remains an analogy for the theme of "passion" in a staid era.

Source: Cinemovie.fr

Directed by Jan Kounan and starring Mads Mikelsen (Casino Royale) as Igor Stravinksy while Anna Mouglalis portrays Coco. As mentioned previously, Fontaine has the difficult challenge of delicately balancing Coco's romances and professional career. Kounan, on the other hand, is bringing to life a book which specifically focuses on a relationship between a man and a woman who happen to also be two significant figures in their respective fields. I am being intentionally non-descriptive as this setup could truly be about anyone, and has been seen before. What remains to be seen is if the story can distinguish itself by revealing how the love affair affected the artists. Did his time with Coco further Stravinsky's music? Did her time with Stravinsky contribute to Coco's designs? Though both were trailblazers of the early 20th century, did their romance typify the decadence of the era, or herald the end of it? Are there more conflicts for Coco beyond the period's feminine propriety and the obligatory showdown with Stravinksky's wife? Kounan certainly has just as difficult a challenge as Fontaine, perhaps moreso. Fontaine has only to keep the film on a singular course, but Kounan has many thematic paths in front him and navigating those paths toward a relevant film without losing one's way is far more difficult. The players all seem capable of the task, but many elements must fit together perfectly in order for this film to differentiate itself from any other film about a transient love affair.

The film closed the Cannes Film Festival this past May, but has yet to be scheduled for general release, though Kounan shot both a French-language and English-language version of the film.

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