ROMANTIC DRAMA; 1hr 55min (French and Russian with subtitles)
STARRING: Mads Mikkelsen, Anna Mouglalis, Elena Morozova
Star power: Mouglalis and Mikkelsen
Paris 1913: The radical and fabulous premiere of The Rite of Spring by Russian composer Igor Stravinsky (Mikkelsen) causes a furore at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées. Serene in the bawling audience, fellow artist Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel (Mouglalis) is intrigued. Seven years later, Chanel is celebrated and wealthy while Stravinsky has never recovered. Fiercely proud but financially cornered, he accepts the use of Chanel’s edgily chic rural villa for himself and his family. As elegant as an etching in her fluid black-and-white creations, Chanel is a self-contained contrast to Stravinsky’s maternal, consumptive wife, Catherine (Morozova). As his wife grows weaker, Stravinsky and Chanel begin an affair that Catherine is powerless to prevent.
For director Jan Kounen, the look and feel of a film are paramount and the dialogue consequently minimal. This time capsule is a beauty, fed by passion and art, if not fact. Yet nor does it romanticise its selfish star couple — at the moment when Catherine asks Chanel if she ever feels guilty and the answer is a cool “No,” it’s clear this is a designer to admire rather than a woman to warm to.