Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 
Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable

REVIEW | Music & Fashion Love: "Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky"

Photo of Eric Kohn By Eric Kohn | Indiewire June 9, 2010 at 3:05AM

The second movie released in a year's time to involve fashion designer maven Coco Chanel, the brooding drama "Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky" delivers its goods on constant repeat. A fictionalization of the rumored liaison between Chanel (Anna Mouglalis) and the famed Russian composer (Mads Mikkelsen) in the 1920s, this spare, elegantly-made period piece creates a visually dazzling portrait of misguided passion. But the remarkable sights and sounds, which culminate with Stravinsky composing a masterpiece after the conclusion of his torrid affair, don't quite overwhelm the lack of story. Instead, we get continuous overstatement: Sex! Art! Tortured artists having sex! The resulting experience is high culture in tabloid terms.
0

The second movie released in a year's time to involve fashion designer maven Coco Chanel, the brooding drama "Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky" delivers its goods on constant repeat. A fictionalization of the rumored liaison between Chanel (Anna Mouglalis) and the famed Russian composer (Mads Mikkelsen) in the 1920s, this spare, elegantly-made period piece creates a visually dazzling portrait of misguided passion. But the remarkable sights and sounds, which culminate with Stravinsky composing a masterpiece after the conclusion of his torrid affair, don't quite overwhelm the lack of story. Instead, we get continuous overstatement: Sex! Art! Tortured artists having sex! The resulting experience is high culture in tabloid terms.

Less emotionally impacting than the sentimental Audrey Tatou-starring biopic "Coco Before Chanel," this later period career arc functions as a semi-sequel, taking place long after Chanel solidified her international success. Director Jan Kounen sets up the meeting of his two eponymous subjects with a few perfunctory scenes in Paris (where Stravinsky premieres "The Rite of Spring" in 1913 to a riotous crowd) followed by the reconnection of the would-be lovers in 1920, in the wake of the Russian Revolution. Stravinsky, broke and struggling to support his family and his profession, hesitantly accepts an invite from Chanel to live in her lavish villa while completing his latest composition.

Almost immediately after his arrival, with Stravinsky's family safely diverted, the clothes begin to shed. A significant portion of "Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky" is dedicated to the forbidden couple's frenzied lovemaking, a series of scenes almost sleek enough to qualify as a commercial for any of Chanel's lavish props (her clothes or her home - take your pick). But the killer art direction amounts to little more than affluence porn. Kounen's minuscule plot involves Stravinsky's frustrated wife (Yelena Morozova) growing increasingly distant from her husband, as he continues to derive creative inspiration from the affair. Mainly, the movie revels in mood, lingering obsessively over the physical details of the affair as Stravinsky's chief musical guidance.

It's at once a wonder to behold and resoundingly empty. Kounen's undeniably effective cinematic devices often establish the illusion of suspense, leading to a foreboding atmosphere that's the core of the movie's appeal. Mouglalis and Mikkelsen don fierce stares that underscore their respective intensities, turning them into stylized impersonations of historical icons rather than actual human beings, but their interactions have unavoidable sensuality regardless.

Still, the real star recognition belongs not with the movie's two leads but its soundtrack, a collage of Stravinsky compositions that appear to erupt out of the solemn conflict. While "Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky" fails at pulling together a full-fledged narrative, it wholly succeeds at enlivening the radical character of Stravinsky's work. The opening Paris performance, defined by Vaslav Nijinsky's wildly physical avant garde choreography, serves as a virtuoso act of filmed theater, filled with shrieking violins and jerky physical movements that generate an awe intrinsic to the original work.

The movie's finale simultaneously provides an ideal cap to its hauntingly beautiful strengths and a glaring reminder of its weaknesses. In a primitive form of emo-like post-breakup rage, Stravinksy completes a dark, expressive tune that follows him to his senior years. Fading the details of Stravinsky's life into his art, Kounen leaves a gap between the personality and the vocation perpetually unresolved. The mystery - and the chief pleasure of this stylistic exercise - lies with the music.

[Sony Pictures Classics will release "Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky" in limited release beginning Friday, June 11th.]

This article is related to: Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky






Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome



Awards Season Spotlight

Contender Conversations

Indiewire celebrates the best and brightest from Independent film, Hollywood, and foreign cinema.

More