‘Coco’ in­ter­twines high art, eroti­cism

af­fair flares as it might have hap­pened be­tween chanel, stravin­sky

Austin American-Statesman - - MOVIES&LIFE - By John De­Fore

If last year’s “Bright Star” was the best de­pic­tion in years of high art’s abil­ity to both con­vey and in­spire deeply felt emo­tion, “Coco Chanel and Igor Stravin­sky” is here to re­mind us of art’s more car­nal pow­ers — to prove how hot cool mod­ernism can be.

Telling the story of a tu­mul­tuous af­fair be­tween two of the 20th cen­tury’s most in­flu­en­tial cre­ative peo­ple, Jan Kounen’s film (adapt­ing a book by Chris Green­halgh) drips with art­ful­ness from its open­ing frames, in which eerie clouds of or­ches­tral mu­sic ac­com­pany a cred­its se­quence

Con­tin­ued from D dec­o­rated with kalei­do­scopic fil­i­gree.

Af­ter those cred­its comes a se­quence so thrilling for clas­si­cal mu­sic buffs that it would be worth pay­ing to see this movie in a theater even if you couldn’t care less about the com­poser’s pri­vate life. Kounen trans­ports us to 1913 Paris for the le­gendary pre­miere of Stravin­sky’s “Rite of Spring.”

That scene, where the au­di­ence’s ve­he­ment re­sponse to the chal­leng­ing bal­let has of­ten been de­scribed as a riot, is vividly de­picted here — from the on­stage per­for­mance and the ag­i­ta­tion it en­gen­dered to the en­su­ing back­stage drama, with chore­og­ra­pher Vaslav Ni­jin­sky work­ing hero­ically to keep his dancers from fall­ing apart un­der the pres­sure.

We also see one woman in the crowd sit­ting rapt while oth­ers boo: Coco Chanel. Years later (we’re pick­ing up where the re­cent film “Coco Be­fore Chanel” left off), the com­poser and the fashion de­signer meet. He is a strug­gling artist with a fam­ily to sup­port; she is a sin­gle en­tre­pre­neur liv­ing an aris­to­crat’s life at her coun­try es­tate.

Out of the blue, she of­fers to be his pa­tron, mov­ing the Stravin­sky fam­ily into her home while he works on his mu­sic. We’re left to de­bate for our­selves whether her mo­tives are strictly char­i­ta­ble.

As the fam­ily moves in, though, it’s hard to deny the in­evitable: Igor’s ail­ing, old­fash­ioned wife strug­gles to be gra­cious about adapt­ing to the stark Art Deco rooms set aside for her fam­ily, but Chanel’s sen­si­bil­ity is so over­pow­er­ing here that it can only be a mat­ter of time be­fore Stravin­sky comes un­der her sway.

Soon enough, the pi­ano in his study goes silent while the two en­joy the first of many sur­pris­ingly vig­or­ous love scenes.

“Coco Be­fore Chanel,” star­ring Au­drey Tautou, might hurt the box of­fice prospects for a sec­ond film, but the two por­traits com­ple­ment each other sur­pris­ingly well — both chrono­log­i­cally and in the way this movie’s Chanel, Anna Mouglalis, brings to the char­ac­ter an in­tim­i­dat­ing self-con­fi­dence that wouldn’t have been ap­pro­pri­ate in the first film.

Be­tween her and Mads Mikkelsen’s Stravin­sky, the cou­ple packs enough un­com­pro­mis­ing cre­ativ­ity and brainy sex ap­peal to sus­tain this story through any pedes­trian pot­holes it might en­counter: her low, sen­sual voice rough­ened by years of smok­ing; his sear­ing, in­tense gaze mag­ni­fied by those fa­mous round spec­ta­cles — the ac­tors turn these fig­ures into rock stars of the hu­man­i­ties.

The af­fair ends badly, with one of these un­com­pro­mis­ing per­son­al­i­ties con­quer­ing the other and mov­ing on. But an enig­matic epi­logue, glimps­ing the artists, alone, at the end of their lives, imag­ines (if only to mag­nify the film’s hard ro­man­ti­cism) that this in­ter­lude left each of them per­ma­nently haunted. Rat­ing: R for sex­u­al­ity, nu­dity. Run­ning time: 2 hours. Theater: Ar­bor.



As iconic de­signer Coco Chanel, Anna Mouglalis ra­di­ates brainy sex ap­peal and un­com­pro­mis­ing cre­ativ­ity to match that of com­poser Igor Stravin­sky.

Christo­pher Nolan’s lat­est, ‘In­cep­tion,’ bends the mind with its psy­cho­log­i­cal twists and turns.

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