Saturday, November 7, 2009

Coco Avant Chanel

Movie name: Coco Avant Chanel
Year of release: 2009
Director: Anne Fontaine
Stars: Audrey Tautou, Benoit Poelvoorde, Alessandro Nivola, Marie Gillain, Emmanuelle Devos
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 5

Synopsis:Anne Fontaine's latest film is a biopic about the life of french fashion designer Coco Chanel. The film introduces us to Gabrielle Chanel and her sister, both as children being dropped off by their father at a local orphanage run by nuns. From that point on we see the sisters as young women, both singing in a small club where Gabrielle charms a local aristocrat named Etienne Balsan. Gabrielle's sister decides to leave their cabaret act in the hopes of getting married to a man of means, whereas Gabrielle, named Coco by Etienne because of one of the songs she had in her routine, comes to "live" with him. Coco is unsatisfied and starts sowing her own clothes, always very practical and masculine, quite contrary to the fashion of the time. While staying with Etienne, Coco meets and falls in love with "Boy" Capel whom incentives her to start creating.
The film adapts a book about the life of Coco Chanel, since there are quite a few different sources to how her life began and her humble beginnings. However for such a rich and interesting personality, this film ends up being quite tame and uneventful. Chanel is portrayed more as a pouting and manipulator than the trailblazer that she was. To Audrey Tautou's credit, she does not try to make the character likable - her arrogance and determination give an extra dimension to the character. However who really walks away with the film is Benoit Poelvoorde whose performance as Etienne has a bit of everything: charm, cynicism, love, buffoon. This is a film that shows a pale glimpse of the life of a person who was an icon of the 20th Century. Hopefully a better film will come along to do Chanel justice.

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