Passion without pretense.
âCoco Chanel & Igor Stravinskyâ portrays an affair between two of the most recognizable, egocentric geniuses of the 20th century. They both revolutionized their industries: Chanel in fashion and Stravinsky in music. They were also both under the harsh lens of public scrutiny, who didnât always understand what these two artists offered.
The film commences with a recreation of the 1913 Parisian opening of Stravinskyâs âThe Rite of Spring.â In it, the bourgeoisie are introduced to his jarring and uncomfortable tune that appears to spit in the face of everything theyâre used to (âSwan Lakeâ and similar engagements). They boo, hiss, and start fights. The cops are called in. Suddenly, an elegant night at the ballet feels more like a soccer riot. All of it gives viewers some insight into how Stravinskyâs music first influenced the world and the type of people it attracted (the contemplative and modern Coco Chanel, for one).
Seven years pass, and Europe is licking its wounds after World War I. Coco Chanel is mourning the loss of her lover and financier, Boy Capel, and Igor Stravinsky, his wife Katherine, and their children have been exiled from Russia. Chanel invites them to stay at her Chateau in France, to which the composer agrees. And, so, we have the perfect arrangement for a tense and sexual mĂ©nage.
Anna Mouglalis and Mads Mikkelsen portray Chanel and Stravinsky, respectfully, in a way that isnât commonly seen on screen. They flaunt the aspects of their charactersâ personalities that audiences generally would like to ignore â Egoism, arrogance, and something of a god complex â in favor of creative brilliance. In one scene, Katherine asks Chanel if she ever feels guilty, to which the designer simply responds, âNo.â
The relationship between these two characters is an interesting one because it is so simple. These two people are attracted to the creative power they both wield, and this becomes cause for a physical relationship that suggests passion, though never reaches a peak amounting to more than lust. Essentially, itâs all just fucking, pure and simple.
It would almost be too much to handle if it werenât for Katherine, who is a passive force in a household of strong wills. The affair is pretty much out in the open, and Katherine knows about it from the beginning. She also knows that there is no love at work, and that her husband has been more creatively active than ever before. She allows it to happen, to a point, and is able to ground the two titular characters before they float away on their high horses.
While the affair in question falls short of its emotional mark, though it successfully says what the director wants, the film flourishes as a feast for the eyes. Chanelâs home is decorated in a way that will make design nuts go gooey, and it couldnât have been any other way. Her favorite room, composed mainly in black and white, is an homage to her sense of style and a representation of the cold and composed aura she walks around with. The costuming, too, is perfect. Mouglalis, also a model for the current Chanel line, wears old gowns from the company that you simply canât look away from. Sheâs gorgeous and when she speaks, her deep, sultry voice demands attention.
This film is one that should be watched with some prior knowledge of the characters, because director Jan Kounen leaves their pasts mysterious. All that is really on display here is their affair and the creative endeavors they were both able to pursue because of it. When boiled down to its roots, itâs a very simple film; one that has more power than you might expect, but less than its potential offered.