Thursday, December 16, 2010


Audrey Tautou, Benoit Poelvoorde, Emmanuelle Devos

"Before she was France's famous mademoiselle ..."

When one reads the name "Chanel", we immediately think about the elegant brand of haute couture which gave us fashionable clothes and accessories. Yet way before she became a fashion icon, she went by the name Gabrielle Chanel and used the nickname "Coco" from the song she sang with her sister Adrienne in a vaudeville act.

This biopic takes off after they are abandoned by their father in an orphanage. The two Chanel sisters make ends meet by being seamstress of the performers in a little bar where they perform as well. It also focuses on her liaison with a certain Baron Balsan and briefly presents her love affair with an English merchant named Arthur "Boy" Capel. Capel is said to be 'the love of her life'.

The authentic set design and the picturesque cinematography of the verdant French countryside merely serves as an attractive backdrop to this rather lightweight biography. Unlike the hugely melodramatic yet very meaty biopic about the life of Edith Piaf ("La Vie en Rose"), Coco Avant Chanel focused on a dull and boring stage in the style guru's life. Audrey Tautou with her pixie hairstyle and doe eyed wonder is quite charming but it isn't enough to salvage a poorly detailed plot.

Since it is about Chanel before she became famous, the film ends with a little fashion show where she presents her first collection of hats to the Parisian society. A little note before the end credits gave the viewers a short idea about how she spent the rest of her life on earth. I didn't really have the faintest idea about Coco Chanel's life before, during and after her fashion brand gained fame, so I figure this film was tolerable in the sense that I did learn a tiny bit about her humble beginnings.

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