First there was Signé Chanel, then there was Coco Avant Chanel. Now we have the Jan Kounen-directed Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky, which offers viewers yet another look into the world of Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel.
Every film and documentary that shines the spotlight on the iconic designer offers a new perspective on her personal and professional life, allowing us to piece together a better picture of who she really was.
In Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky, which was chosen as the closing film for the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, and which was released in the United States on June 11th, we learn about the affair between the French designer and the Russian composer.
The film is based on the 2002 novel Coco & Igor by Chris Greenhalgh, and is wonderfully entrancing despite its over two-hour run time – but not because of the actual story being told.
The plotline of the film is rather thin, but it’s the stunning costumes, indoor and outdoor scenery, mesmerizing soundtrack, and set décor that demand most of the attention.
Plot-wise, it is worth noting that the film recounts how the Chanel No. 5 fragrance came about, and does a good job at honing in on how exacting, demanding, and assertive Chanel was of herself and those around her.
In one scene, for example, the designer chides an employee for her long "vulgar" fingernails, and another for not wearing enough perfume. The designer demanded perfection from herself and from all those around her.
After leaving the screening, I couldn’t help but think that Tom Ford is, in many ways, a modern version of Coco Chanel. He’s a visionary who translates his aesthetic into everything from films to furniture. What I loved most about this feature is that you can see how Chanel brought her groundbreaking style into not only fashion, but perfumery, home décor, furniture, table-top design, accessories, and more.
The realism that shines in the film is in no small part due to the fact that the filmmakers were able to get the support of Karl Lagerfeld and the house of Chanel. Chanel made their archives and collections available for use in the film, and the filmmakers were allowed access to Coco Chanel’s legendary apartment at 31 rue Rambon in Paris.
Further, the house lent several original garments and accessories to be worn by Anna Mouglalis, who played the designer on-screen, and Karl Lagerfeld specially created a classic suit and an embroidered evening dress for the scene recreating the scandalous 1913 performance of The Rite Of Spring that appears near the beginning of the film.
If you’re looking for a fast-paced action-packed, dramatic film, this is not for you. But, if you have an appreciation and an interest in seeing Chanel’s aesthetic translated into a number of different media, while gaining insight into a very specific moment in her career, this is a great film.