COCO CHANEL & IGOR STRAVINSKY
Director: Jan Kounen
Screenwriter: Chris Greenhalgh from an adaptation of Greenhalgh’s novel Coco & Igor by Jan Kounen and Carlo De Boutiny
Runtime: 119 mins.
Australian release date: 15 April 2010
Based on the novel/screenplay, Coco & Igor, by Chris Greenhalgh, Jan Kounen brings to the screen a ‘complete’ story of the love affair between the fabulous Coco Chanel (Anna Mouglalis) & Igor Stravinsky (Mads Mikkelsen) in Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky. It is a story of facts mixed with imagination that pays homage to a period in history when France was simply THE place to be.
The film opens in Paris in 1913 with an historically accurate re-creation of the premiere of The Rite of Spring at the Champs- Elysees Theatre. The work is revolutionary and modern. The audience boos, jeers and hisses at the performance which is considered scandalous and upsets the haute bourgeois.
Sitting in the dark, mesmerized by the scene, is Coco Chanel. She eventually meets Igor Stravinsky. It is obvious there is a mutual attraction between them and she becomes obsessed. Seven years later she invites the penniless Igor and his family to live at her villa, Bel Respiro. The villa has been faithfully restored and the set becomes the central location for the two artists’ passion.
And, passionate it is. Igor is torn between the love and support of his ailing wife Katarina (Elena Morozova) and the now independent and successful Coco Chanel. At one point Katarina confronts Coco admitting that her affair with her husband has created more passion in his work. The passion is carried through in the lovers’ relationship and in a moment of frustration Igor refers to Coco as, ‘a shopkeeper, not an artist’. The relationship also parallels two of the artists’ greatest achievements, in Stravinsky’s successful revision of The Rite of Spring and Chanel’s creation of her signature perfume, CHANEL No. 5.
The costumes and sets are truly magnificent. The production had access to Coco’s original villa in Garches and Karl Lagerfeld created the costumes she wore in the opening scenes at the theatre. CHANEL also made their archives and collections available. This makes for a jaw-dropping black and white visual experience as each scene deserves an award for design. It is particularly evident in a scene when Catherine asks Coco why she doesn’t like colour and Mademoiselle Chanel replies, ‘only if it is black’. After all, she was once referred to as being the only person alive who could make grief seem chic, and, how chic this film is.