Published Jun 24, 2010What distinguishes Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky from other apocryphal biopics burdened with the weight of objective truth adverse to thematic convenience is its adamantine refusal to contextualize historically or reduce creative processes to glib affectations. No mentions are made of Stravinsky's history or the Russian Revolution that forced his emigration, nor Chanel's status as an trendsetter and the cultural climate supporting her success.
Neither is the film content in belittling its subjects with standard romantic whimsy, drawing their infidelity after Chanel (Anna Mouglalis) invites Stravinsky (Mads Mikkelsen) and his family to stay at her sparse and monochromatic pastoral home as an inevitability, a right or a countenance of bold, egocentric figures of influence.
The preoccupation is with form as narrative unto itself, opening with mirrored kaleidoscopic patterns and a heightened, increasingly erratic, frantic recreation of Stravinsky's brazen, atonal crescendo of tribal animalism and primitive rhythms, The Rite of Spring. Of course, while Parisian elitists belted out catcalls, enraged by the audacity of a ballet eschewing familiarity, in one of the most famous classical music riots, Chanel watches peacefully in the audience, intrigued by the art and in turn, the artist.
Meeting seven years later, their affair is chronicled quite vividly and coolly as an extension of the desire Chanel has for Stravinsky's talent and passion. She presents herself to him as a prize and a validation of his abilities, which he takes on with similarly mechanical and ideological purpose. Neither party care that his wife Catherine (Elena Morozova) or his four children are just down the hall, not feeling remorse or guilt for what seems the logical result of their larger than life union.
And while this set up is presented with enough sparse dialogue to sustain a narrative, outside of the juxtaposed musical compositions and birth of "Chanel No. 5," the last act of the film exists without dialogue, meditating on the present and future identity. It's arguably a pretentious misstep, but undeniably reasserts a thesis of myopic simplicity, utilizing the visual medium of film as a representation of the fashion icon's stark, linear design and the composer's contrary symphonic outbursts. (Mongrel Media)