July 28, 2011

Coco avant Chanel (France 2009)

"Coco avant Chanel" is - as the title suggests - a film about the early years of legendary fashion designer and style icon Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel. The emergence of her fashion empire is not the subject of the film. Director Anne Fontaine instead tells Coco's years before the foundation of her company, focusing on her relationships with two men. From a cinematic point of view, although very well crafted, the film has little new or exciting to offer. It remains rather conventional but that may not have been such a bad approach because it marks a contrast to the person of Coco Chanel who was anything but conventional. She was an outsider, an independent women with radical new thoughts, and therefore way ahead of her time. 

Whether one likes the film, ultimately depends on whether one is interested in fashion and the person Coco Chanel. For instance, it is very interesting to see that much of her inspiration came from men's fashion and her simple, classic style - which would be considered conservative now - broke with the social conventions back then. Audrey Tautou deserves a lot of praise in the title role. Usually it is not the best idea to have a big star portray a famous person but Tautou does manage to convincingly portray Coco Chanel and reveals her vulnerability hidden beneath the cool surface. In the final moments, she even looks strikingly like her.

People may critize the film's lack of emotions but it undoubtly has grace and as such is a very true portrait of Chanel's personality. I didn't like the film so much the first time because I concentrated too much on what would happen to Coco. When I watched it again I took a different approach and found myself enyoing it much more: I disregarded the story - which does indeed lack emotionality - and instead let the beautiful clothes, decor and cinematography inspire me - reminding me once again that film is, above all, a visual medium.


Fashion fades, style remains: Audrey Tautou as Coco Chanel

No comments:

Post a Comment