In 2009, two movies about the complicated life of legendary fashion designer Coco Chanel came out in theaters. One got more attention than the other: Coco Before Chanel starred Audrey Tautou as Gabrielle Chanel, was nominated for four Baftas, six Césars, and an Academy Award for Best Costumes but was definitely not the better movie, in my humble opinion at least. Coco Before Chanel was a traditional biopic spanning the years that Coco left an orphanage to become a seamstress to the death of her partner (in love and business)—Boy Capel. While Coco Chanel was known for being hard, feisty, and strong-willed, Tautou brought a spritely Amélie-like energy to the role—never quite capturing the essence of the hardness of the designer. Come on, she was rumored to be a Nazi agent!
Coco & Igor takes place after Chanel has established herself as a designer, and focuses on the possible (but not completely confirmed) relationship between Coco and Igor Stravinsky. Coco & Igor stars Anna Mouglalis and a very under-appreciated but supremely talented Danish actor—Mads Mikkelsen (some of you may know him as the villain in Casino Royale) as Stravinsky. What Coco & Igor gets right is all the sense of the hardness and the darkness of this woman. And for aesthetes, this movie is a gem: it focuses on Stravinsky’s most famous piece of music, The Rite of Spring, which she attends at the Ballet Russe’s controversial first performance. You also get a glimpse of Coco’s country home in Garches, seeing the art-deco space with only black and white furniture is worth the rental.
Chanel and Stravinsky’s affair is more about egos than love. Even though the facts are murky about their relationship, the film offers a glimpse of the deeply complex and contradictory woman that was Coco Chanel.
Photo: Regine Abadia/©Sony Pictures Classics/courtesy of Everett Collection