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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

COCO AVANT CHANEL / COCO BEFORE CHANEL (2009)

Anne Fontaine’s bio-pic on the early (pre-couture) years of Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel is too composed for its own good. Audrey Tautou seems just right for Coco, but her independent mindset and iconoclastic disposition toward clothes, corsets, make-up, class distinctions & social conventions are all signified with a dour attitude that make her appeal & fascination hard to fathom. Without hindsight, who would have put up with her? Of course, the fun (and the trap) of these pre-fame bios is to watch intimations of great things to come from this penniless (oops! sous-less) waïf, once she leaves the orphanage. And, to her credit, Fontaine doesn’t make a ‘meal’ out of the big moments: the first hat, the first little black dress, the first shop, the first affair. No, she errs on the other side, giving equal emphasis to just about everything so that nothing registers with much impact. It’s like one of those ultra-chic French accents that purr along without rhythm or emphasis. It’s all lovely to look at, in its pretty generic manner, but surely there’s more to this story than meets our eye in this pleasant, but insubstantial film.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: People always compare Ms Tautou with that other Audrey, Hepburn. But the star she often resembles here is the young Jean Simmons. BTW, where’s the famous Chanel suntan that probably did more than all her dresses & perfumes in shaking up our idea of feminine beauty? Did that come later? Perhaps the other recent Coco bio-pic, the one about Chanel & Stravinsky has an answer.

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