Movie review – Still a woman of mystery

2010-11-26 13:11

Film: Coco and Igor (UIP)
Director: Jan Kounen
Featuring: Anna Mouglalis, Mads Mikkelsen, Yelena Morozova and Anatole Taubman
Rating: 5/10

What is it about iconic fashionista Coco Chanel that makes it so difficult for her French countrymen to make a compelling film about her?

First there was Coco Avant Chanel with Audrey Tautou as the pint-sized style guru – before she was a style guru. That film, like this one, was beautiful to look at but lacked any real insight into what made her tick.

In Coco and Igor, Anna Mouglalis is a physical match for Chanel and she, like Tautou, is slim enough to be the perfect clothes­­horse for Chanel’s tailored designs.

Throughout this film, Chanel is obsessed with finding the scent that defines the woman she is and the women she designs for. It’s an interesting aside, the genesis of the world’s most classic scent – Chanel No 5. But the film’s focus is the strangely passionless affair Chanel has with revolutionary Russian composer Igor Stravinsky.

The film begins with an overlong reproduction of Stravinsky’s debut of The Rite of Spring – a peculiar ballet set to an arresting score that contributed to him being described as revolutionary.

When the Bolsheviks over-run Russia, Stravinsky and his family flee to Paris and are reliant on the charity of friends. Enter Chanel, who offers the family refuge at her chateau.

But it’s not without consequences – she and Stravinsky start a rather bloodless affair and the only person who shows any passionate response to it is Mrs Stravinsky (Yelena Morozova).

The sex scenes are, like the rest of the film, staged for maximum visual stimulation and as a result are over-choreographed.

This film, about the affair, is based on rumours that they had one. Perhaps this is why the details are so sketchy, though you’d think the filmmakers could have improvised to make the story more compelling. Instead the two leads wander around looking intense, until one day the affair is over – as inexplicably as it began.

The enduring mystique around Chanel endures, and the woman who defined the fashion world at the beginning of the 20th century keeps her secrets.

Coco and Igor suffers the same fate as Coco Avant Chanel – it’s a film that perfectly illustrates the maxim “all style, no substance”.

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