Movie Review: Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky (2009)

April 10, 2010 in Movie Reviews by pacejmiller

I just saw an advanced screening of Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky (advanced for where I’m from, anyway), an erotically charged French drama directed by Jan Kounen.  It’s based on the book “Coco & Igor” by Chris Greenhalgh, which chronicled the relationship between fashion icon Coco Chanel and married Russian composer Igor Stravinsky in turbulent 1920s Paris.

(This film is not to be confused with Coco avant Chanel, the Anne Fontaine film released around the same time starring Audrey Tautou (which I haven’t seen).)

I must admit, I did not have very high expectations for the film, because I usually don’t have a thing for relationship-based dramas set in the past (though there have been a few exceptions).  And I suppose those low expectations were somewhat justified in the end.

Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky is a finely crafted film.  You can tell director Jan Kounen has skill, and everything from the classical music to the meticulous sets to the costumes were all first rate.  The performances were also terrific, with Mads Mikkelsen (he was the villain in Casino Royale and is also in Clash of the Titans!) as the tortured genius Igor and Anna Mouglalis (French actress and Chanel “muse” who does promotion for the brand) as Coco.  Mouglalis in particular was amazing.  I didn’t know much about Coco Chanel, but it feels like Mouglalis really brought her to life, from her voice and demeanor to that high-powered “cold hard bitch” vibe she exudes so effortlessly.

However, while the film is well made, there’s really not a whole of lot of substance.  Given the title, there is a certain inevitability throughout, and the film progresses like a slow-moving train wreck.  You know what’s going to happen and accordingly there’s not a lot of excitement.  The sexual tension and family turmoil is there, so it kept me from switching off completely, but the story simply isn’t compelling enough to make me want to keep watching.

It was also very difficult to connect with these two “titans” of their respective arts.  Neither are very likable, so it was hard to care about what happens to them.  Consequently, the ending, which I think was intended to be emotionally powerful, didn’t work at all for me.

So yes, a good effort, but not enough to be entertaining or emotionally engaging.

2.5 stars out of 5