Directed by: Jan Kounen Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Anna Mouglalis, Yelena Morozova Running Time: 1 hr 50 mins Rating: R Release Date: July 2, 2010
PLOT: The story of an unpredictable affair that began between Russian composer Igor Stravinsky (Mikkelsen) and French fashion icon Coco Chanel (Mouglalis).
WHO'S IT FOR?: Having a certain background knowledge of these two famous human beings would be helpful to take into this romantic drama, but it is not necessary.
EXPECTATIONS: My previous education on Coco Chanel had come from the Audrey Tautou film Coco Before Chanel, but I was informed of almost nothing about this movie before it began.
Mads Mikkelsen as Igor Stravinsky: His music blares into the eardrums of some of his audience members, but the equally intense Stravinsky is a man of little words. According to Mikkelsen’s portrayal, Stravinsky was an incredibly focused individual who constantly focused a penetrating stare onto someone or something. Still, with all of the rage that exudes from his fingers and onto the composition paper, he rarely explodes with visible anger, something that lends itself to either discipline or a mind that is constantly busy. Oddly enough, we do not see him directly compose much as we do see him make staff paper. Score: 7
Anna Mouglalis as Coco Chanel: Like Stravinsky, she has her own intensities that can easily form into bossiness. Chanel is also shown here as a loner, even when in the company of those admiring her hard work or general beauty. We seem to learn the most about her as a person when she interacts with people – the famous backstory of Coco Chanel, which has been told in other recent films, is not provided here. Mouglalis has the same stoic nature of her male co-star, and is thus as equally compelling, despite the focus of this doubly named film is more on him than her. Score: 7
Yelena Morozova as Katarina Stravinskaya: As an ill woman who tries to stomach the adulterous shenanigans going on around her, Morozova has a delicate performance that transfers her sorrow to the audience gently. We understand her frustrations with her great monologue towards the end of a movie, which features her narrating a written letter directly into the camera. Though she is originally the wife of Stravinsky and seems insignificant throughout, Morozova does a great job with the minor heartbreaking role provided to her. Score: 7
TALKING: Even though there are three languages used in the movie, the most important dialect is that of silence. Especially when we are observing how Coco & Igor feel about one another, something that is the main goal of the story, we can only read their mysterious expressions and consider what is not being said between the two. Their silence has a life of its own. Score: 8
SIGHTS: The aesthetic beauty is not just in the music but in the cinematography. Throughout, the human eye is treated to expansive crane shots and fluid camera movement that follows characters as they move in and out of rooms. A placement of reality is continued in the film as the camera likes to follow its lead characters especially when their emotional dilemmas are demanding of observation, but while also providing them space. Score: 7
SOUNDS: The intensity of Stravinsky’s personality seems to be prevalent in his work, and we can see a violent evolution in his form as things become messier in his world. His music is heard throughout, and often heard in solo piano form. Tricky editing presents it as Mikkelsen playing the complicated pieces, but whether it’s false or not it is still fluid and believable. Score: 7
BEST SCENE: The beginning presentation of Stravinsky’s nature, as seen in his ballet that creates uproar in a theater full of progressives mixed in with “stuck-up b*tches.” This is also a great moment for crane camera cinematography as it glides throughout an entire crowd at the Theatre Champs Elysees.
ENDING: "So alone in love; I am going to haunt you everyday."
QUESTIONS: What was the name of the ballet performed that started a riot? Wikipedia says it was “The Rite of Spring,” but if I’m not mistaken that’s what he was composing later on in the film (you can hear him tinker with the opening line to “The Rite” about halfway through). Am I missing something, or is someone making a mistake?
REWATCHABILITY: The chemistry between Chanel and Stravinsky can be observed again, as long as there is still some heat left in the story even after one already knows how it all ends.
Unlike some gossip-friendly pairings, the heat hardly simmers from this particular tale. Even when the story’s events become relatively dormant as the main characters simply exist in Coco Chanel’s mansion, a flame still burns within the script that has us considering all factors of this odd coupling - especially whether it's healthy for them or not. Could it be the intensities for their particular passions that bond a composer and fashion designer, (outside of their attraction, of course), or is there an actual love burning within these two statues?
Celebrity couples fascinate us partially because they are so mysterious. How did Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes ever get matched? What does John Mayer even have in common with Jessica Simpson? The list goes on. The same odd situation comes Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky – the nature of their relationship is unfounded and is thus even more compelling. Here with this lavishly made film we get an intimate view into this odd pairing, with all of the bits of scandal, sexuality, and fixated staring our celebrity culture would now feed off and dispose of as if it were a microwave meal. So while the explanation for this relationship is not exactly clear, or appears to be locked in their bedrooms, at least we have a thorough picture of another coupling which we can gossip about.
FINAL SCORE: 7/10