Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
September 21, 2010 by Dennis Amith
An alluring film with beautiful cinematography but the overall plot is trite. The film does show the viewer the sexual affair of Coco Chanel and & Igor Stravinsky but also tends to spotlight their amoral behavior and self-indulgence. The film looks wonderful on Blu-ray and is still a film worth watching!
Images courtesy of © 2009, 2010 Eurowide Film Production. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky
YEAR OF FILM RELEASE: 2009
DURATION: 119 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:35:1), French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French
COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics
RATED: R (For Strong Sexuality and Nudity)
RELEASE DATE: September 28, 2010
Directed by Jan Kounen
Based on the novel “Coco & Igor” by Chris Greenhalgh
Screenplay and Dialogue by Chris Greenhalgh
Adaptation by Carlo De Boutiny, Jan Kounen
Produced by Chris Bolzi, Claudie Ossard
Co-Produced by Veronika Zonabend
Associate Producer: Albina Boeckli, Kazutaka Kimori, Yoichi Sakai
Music by Gabriel Yared
Cinematography by David Ungaro
Edited by Anny Danche
Casting by Gigi Akoka
Production Design by Marie-Helene Sulmoni
Costume Design by Chattoune, Fab
Anna Mouglalis as Coco Chanel
Mads Mikkelsen as Igor Stravinsky
Yelena Morozova as Katarina Stravinskaya
Natacha Lindinger as Misia Sert
Grigori Manukov as Sergey Diagilev
Radivoje Bukvic as Grand Duke Dimitri
Nicolas Vaude as Ernest Beaux
Anatole Taubman as Arthur “Boy” Capel
Erick Desmarestz as Le Medecin
Clara Guelblum as Milena Stravinskaya
Maxime Danielou as Teodor Stravinsky
Sophie Hasson as Ludmila Stravinskaya
Nikita Ponomarenko as Sulima Stravinskaya
Paris 1913. At the Theatre Des Champs-Elysées, Igor Stravinsky premieres “The Rite Of Spring”. Coco Chanel is mesmerized…But the revolutionary work is too modern: the enraged audience boos. A near riot ensues. Seven years later, Coco Chanel meets Stravinsky again – a penniless refugee living in exile after the Russian Revolution. The attraction between them is immediate and electric. Coco offers Stravinsky and his family the use of her villa in Garches so that he will be able to continue his work. And so a passionate, intense love affair between two fascinating creative giants begins…
Gabrielle Bonheur “Coco” Chanel, the French fashion designer who was a pioneer of fashion during the 20th Century and the founder of one of the world’s most noticeable brands….Chanel.
Igor Stravinsky, the Russian composer, pianist and conductor who is known as being one of the most important and influential composers of the 20th Century.
What do these two have in common aside being influential and important to their respective careers and industry? The two also were romantically linked together, albeit having an affair with each other.
And thus, the affair is documented in the biopic “Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky”, a film written and based on the novel “Coco & Igor” by Chris Greenhalgh and directed by Jan Kounen (“Renegade”, “Doberman”, “Darshan: The Embrace”) and will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.
Earlier this year, we had the chance to see another Coco Chanel biopic “Coco avant Chanel” from Sony Pictures Classics starring Audrey Tautou as Gabrielle, in her earlier years as she and her sister tried to survive from poverty by taking whichever job they can and we saw how Gabrielle became a fashion designer and found love in Arthur “Boy” Capel, a man that she had loved but a love that would end in tragedy and would streamline Chanel’s focus into her fashion line and make her one of the most powerful women in France.
“Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky” establishes the timeline of when Coco Chanel first met the composer Igor Stravinsky and how the two became close.
The film begins with one of the most shocking events in ballet history as the 1913 ballet “The Rite of Spring” was playing in Paris and a classical musical riot took place. The ballet featured the music of Russian composer Igor Stravinsky (played by Mads Mikkelsen, “Quantum of Solace”, “Casino Royale”, Cash of the Titans”) and we see how the Russian composer is stressing out of how well-received his music will be outside of Russia.
The play revolves around a pagan ritual and a young girl dances herself to death and the girl is offered as a sacrifice to the god of Spring.
We see Coco Chanel (played by Anna Mouglalis, “Kins of Crime”, “I Always Wanted to be a Gangster”, “Gainsbourg”) watching the ballet and enjoying it but because the rhythmic score and scenario was not of the typical convention of classical ballet. Despite being creative with complex music and dance choreography that was quite impressive, audiences of that day were not as impressed and many people from the audience booed and a lot of catcalls were taking place and thus a battle between those who supported the non-traditional ballet style of “The Rite of Spring” and those who had a disdain towards it. Needless to say, fistfights had broken out and the Parisian police had to step in and diffuse the situation.
Coco Chanel was a supporter of Stravinsky’s music and after the ballet, the two met for the first time (not the best timing for the two to meet each other).
Fast forward to 1920 and Coco Chanel’s name is a powerhouse in France. She is a woman that is well-known but most importantly, she is a changed woman after the death of her lover (Arthur “Boy” Capel) and the once happy Coco Chanel is more focused on business and thus some may have though her demeanor is cold. But as a supporter of Igor Stravinsky, she knows that he needs a place to work on music and because she has many rooms at her home, she offers him to work on his music and also bring his family along.
Igor Stravinsky is currently married to Katerina Nossenko and together they have four children. But Katerina’s health is poor because she has tuberculosis and so, Igor feels that the move to Coco Chanel’s home in the country would do his wife and family good.
Despite the whole family now living at Coco’s home, Coco finds herself attracted to the composer and both begin to have an affair. Katerina is well-aware that her husband’s music and life seems to have changed when they moved to Coco’s home and she feels in her heart that her husband is having an affair with her. She also has a personal disdain towards Coco Chanel. From her life being devoid of color (the majority of the decoir and clothing by Coco Chanel is black and white), amazed of how Coco doesn’t have a warm personality but for the most part, a disregard in interfering with her marriage.
Coco Chanel is not bothered by all this. She lives her life the way she wants and how she wants and no one will change that. Meanwhile, her special project that she is working on is a fragrance that would define Chanel and the perfume would be known as “Chanel No. 5”.
“Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky” is a story about two powerful people, both are similar in a way that they do not have warm personalities but Coco Chanel knows how to allure him and make him desire her. As for Igor, he feels that Coco has influenced his music but is torn to his dedication of his family but also his newfound love for Coco Chanel.
Both Coco & Igor find that their sexual affair has benefited themselves. For Igor and his music and Coco for creating her fragrance to help define her liberated style. But as it benefits both individuals, it can also become disastrous when things do not work well. And for both Katerina and Coco, the most important part is if Igor Stravinksy will finally complete his next musical masterpiece or be emotionally tormented by his affair with Coco Chanel.
“Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio). The film looks absolutely magnificent. Cinematographer David Ungaro did a fantastic job with the camera work in capturing the lifestyle and decor of Coco Chanel’s home (indoors and outdoors) and store.
The shots of “The Rite of Spring” was well-choreographed and featured remarkably well on film. Also, the clothing of Coco Chanel and the overall lighting that accentuates the shadows on both Coco and Igor’s body, there was a lot of creativity and planning in getting these shots and it shows.
Skin tones are natural, there is a fine layer of grain and blacks are nice and deep. Picture quality for “Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky” is awesome.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky” is presented in French 5.1 DTS-HD MA. Audio is crisp and clear. Dialogue is clear, to the touch of the piano keys, the music, the horse galloping and even the love making scenes, these come through crystal clear through the front channels and surround channels.
The scene that will catch people’s attention is the first 20-minutes of the film when we watch the riot at “The Rite of Spring”. Not only is the music wonderful but you get a good amount of crowd ambiance as well.
Subtitles are presented in English, French and English SDH.
“Chanel Coco & Igor Stravinsky” comes with the following special features (in standard definition, French stereo and with English subtitles):
The Making of Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky – (20:20) Presented in standard definition. We get to see how the talent were behind-the-scenes. The thoughts that went behind the certain scenes and talents talking about their experience and more.
- Theatrical Trailer – (2:02) The original theatrical trailer for “Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky” presented in HD.
“Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky” is an interesting and visually appealing film. It’s a film where dialogue is not so much the importance, but how two powerful individuals, with a similar, cold style are able to find an attraction to each other. But at the same time, how both are amoral as they do what they feel is right, even if it make people who are dear to them, suffer.
And this is where I have a difficult time with the film and trying to find out what is fact and what is fiction. Did these two really care for each other? Was it a one-sided love? I’ve read about Stravinsky’s relationship with his wife, about him being a philanderer and how he found love with Vera de Bosset. But there is not many details on his relationship with Coco Chanel, mainly that the two had a sexual affair when he (along with his family) were living with Coco Chanel.
It is well-documented that Coco Chanel was an independent woman, we know that she was a different person after the death of her beloved “Boy”, but I often wonder if “Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky” paints Coco as this desirable woman that men just want, but she is not the type to give back emotionally. In some ways, she is portrayed as a cold-hearted vamp that can care less of what she is doing. She is completely amoral of her sexual liasons and affairs, even during a scene when confronted by the wife of Stravinsky. But was Coco Chanel, this bad? Was she this cold? Did both of these individuals really care for each other up to their elder years?
These thoughts ran through my head as my experience watching “Coco avant chanel” (Coco Before Chanel) was much more positive as we see Coco in various emotions but in this film, Coco had an air about her that was very cold and times, uncaring. She did what she wants, she said what she wants and I suppose the death of Arthur “Boy” Capel changed her forever.
But despite of Coco’s demeanor in the film, whether is accurate or not, I will say that “Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky” was entertaining. The first 20-minutes is dedicated to “The Rite of Spring” and I believe this may be the first film that tried to recreate the famous classical riot on film. It was an exciting musical piece and very enjoyable to watch and something you just will not find in American cinema (as the first 15 minutes, many filmmakers try to establish the story), for this film, the actual story starts after those 30-minutes or more later when Stravinsky and his family move to Coco’s home.
And this is where the film becomes visually driven. The placement of the characters, the lighting that accentuates the bodies of Coco and Igor and you can tell that the film really focused on camera placement and showcasing the affection both Coco and Igor had for each other. Meanwhile, each time the film switched over to Katerina, we are greeted with a sickly woman who knows her husband has been with another woman. The cinematography was fantastic but the storyline was average. One should know who Chanel and Stravinksy were before watching this film, one should read up on these individuals. Otherwise the film makes you think that these two people, who may be successful in their own respective fields, both are flawed, amoral, self-indulgent individuals.
I am not sure if the film is cinema hyperbole but I have a hard time believing how this sexual affair ended in the war of words between both Chanel and Stravinsky. And for me, after watching “Coco avant Chanel”, I had a hard time believing that “Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky” is more pleading a case of verisimilitude.
So, there are things about the film that I did enjoy. David Ungaro’s artistic cinematography, the remaking of “The Rite of Spring” and the events that took place on that day in 1913, I felt the set design and costume design were wonderful and I also felt that Anna Mouglalis, Mads Mikkelsen and Yelena Morozova have done a wonderful job but the overall plot seems a bit trite. Also, it’s important to note that after the credits are over, there is another scene in the film that should not be missed but perhaps their should have been some mention in the film to those not familiar with Coco Chanel of how much “Boy” meant to her and why she would never ever have any major connection (let alone be married) to another man in the same manner. It would of helped with the overall storyline and helped people understand that final scene at the end of the credits.
As for the Blu-ray release, picture and audio quality are very good, the special features are a little lacking in this Blu-ray release but you do get the 20+ minute making-of featurette.
Overall, “Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky” is a visually appealing film but whether or not this biopic is indeed factual, I don’t know. While some parts of the film are beautiful and entertaining, I felt the film lacked any major stage of fulfillment. It just kept going and going until its done. The film is not great but nor is it bad, for the most part, its an average film at best.
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