Another take on the Coco Chanel story | Film Review | Indy Week
Pin It

Another take on the Coco Chanel story 

Mads Mikkelsen and Anna Mouglalis in "Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky"

Photo by Regine Abadia/ Sony Pictures Classics

Mads Mikkelsen and Anna Mouglalis in "Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky"

If Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky have sex, is the 20th century born? That's what director Jan Kounen seems to be proposing in Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky, his tantalizing, but ultimately disappointing tableau.

The film opens on one of the seminal events of modern culture, the uproar greeting the 1913 premiere of Stravinsky's Le sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring) ballet, choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky and presented by the Ballets Russes. Impresario Serge Diaghilev had already staged Stravinsky's Firebird and Petrushka to great acclaim, but the passionate primitivism of Le Sacre outraged spectators, with its dissonant score and dancers who stamped the ground and turned their toes in instead of out, like proper ballerinas. I want to be there, don't you?

The story continues seven years later, in 1920, when Chanel, a prosperous couturier (Anna Mouglalis), invites Stravinsky (Mads Mikkelsen, whose eye wept blood in Casino Royale), his placid dumpling of a wife and their four children to stay at her country house and compose without financial worries. Chris Greenhalgh's novel and screenplay suggest the artists had an affair, making beautiful music together, as it were, and inspiring Chanel to create her signature perfume, No. 5.

They were kindred revolutionaries. But watching the naked actors panting and moaning is distracting rather than illuminating. Coco and Igor are portrayed as brilliant but intense and humorless, and perhaps they were. But, it makes for cinematic longueur. Even more distracting is the fact that Mouglalis resembles Cate Blanchett, while Mikkelsen looks like Christopher Walken, which posits a juicer movie that could have been made. Still, the brittle Mouglalis does make a better Chanel than the far-too-nice Audrey Tautou did in last year's Coco Before Chanel (which is unrelated to this new film).

The décor is exquisite, especially Chanel's starkly patterned black-and-white chateau. Her crisply imagined geometrics are aligned with the pregnant scratch of a black music clef across white paper. But, the clothes by Chattoune & Fab are wrong. Apparently anxious to rush the designer into her easily identifiably flapper wardrobe, they have Coco wearing outfits inappropriate to 1920. Not many will notice, true, but it's a film about a legendary designer. Shouldn't her clothes be correct? (Perhaps Chanel would have approved of rewriting the costume timeline for maximum chic.)

The Rite of Spring portrayed a veneer of civilization ripped away to reveal savagery. The primal sacrifice of a young girl's life to ensure the coming of spring is a handy biopic metaphor for the sacrifices tortured artists make for art. If only Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky exhaled the same propulsive madness.

  • Director Jan Kounen's tableau is tantalizing but ultimately disappointing.

Film Details

Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky
Rated R · 115 min. · 2010
Official Site:
Director: Jan Kounen
Writer: Chris Greenhalgh
Producer: Chris Bolzli and Claudie Ossard
Cast: Anna Mouglalis, Mads Mikkelsen, Anatole Taubman, Natacha Lindinger, Yelena Morozova, Erick Desmarestz, Grigori Manukov and Aurélie Le Roc'h


Now Playing

Sorry there are no upcoming showtimes for Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Film Review

Twitter Activity


I am indeed very happy for my life; My name is Vargas Cynthia I never thought that I will live …

by Vargas Cynthia on Axis of Cinema (Film Review)

The lobster is arbitrarily asinine, disjointed, and gratuitously violent towards both humans and former humans that "didn't make it." If …

by Marco_Polo on The Lobster Surreally Skewers Society’s Fear of Single People (Film Review)

Most Read

No recently-read stories.

Visit the archives…

© 2016 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation