Coco Avant Chanel – Movie Review
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Revue de Film
par Kevin Bowen
publié le 16 octobre, 2009
a évalué PG-13
jouant maintenant national
Because biopics must touch the bases of a human life, there is a certain
formality to such films. The best you can hope for, sometimes, isn’t brilliance but to do the person justice.
Anne Fontaine’s Coco Avant
Chanel is a lush French film that does justice to its subject – the legendary French designer and businesswoman Coco Chanel. It is a
project seemingly willed to quality by the commitment of the performers, starting with the French star Audrey Tautou, who make us care as much
The film centers on Chanel’s pre-fame love triangle with the Count Balsan
(a fantastic Benoit Poelvoorde), whom she serves as both best friend and kept plaything, and his English financial planner Arthur Capel
(Alessandro Nivola), who will liberate her by backing her business ventures. It’s a sophisticated relationship quandary that deserves a better
class of obstacles than society marriages and bad driving. But biopics can only take what reality dishes out.
Coco Avant Chanel
is so convinced of its premise of Chanel as a prototype modern businesswoman that you almost
don’t notice that she’s partially slept her way to the top. This should pose a dilemma for feminist ideology – is it acceptable to sexually
play upon the power of men to achieve your own power? Is that playing into the system, or is that subverting it? That is an interesting
question. Yet the film accepts her path without much comment.
Instead we get a very satisfying love story and character study, and an
interesting perspective on turn-of-the-century class – the poor girl becomes a leveler of style, slowly infecting the Old World frockery with
the egalitarian beauty of orphanage simplicity. She’s drawn to that world, drawn in by it, and yet remains aloof as if in some test of
personal purity. It’s the most mature role and performance we’ve seen from Audrey Tautou, who brings proud vulnerability with the same ease
that she does Gallic froth.
kevinbowen @ stageandcinema.com
read William Gooch's report of the roundtable discussion with Audrey Tautou
Menville's commentary of Audrey Tautou in Coco Before Chanel