All sex, no love for Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky
Jan Kounen's film doesn't do its subjects justice
The second biopic in a year about Coco Chanel, Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky focuses on the heated attraction between the French fashion icon (Anna Mouglalis) and the Russian composer (Mads Mikkelsen). After meeting following the riotous reception of Stravinsky's The Rite Of Spring in 1913 at Paris' Theatre Des Champs-Elysées, the two become reacquainted seven years later. Coco invites him and his family, including a sickly wife (Yelena Morozova), to install at her villa in Garches, and a primal love affair ensues between the two.
How deliciously fascinating that two of the 20th-century's most revered creative geniuses would have such an intimate relationship. Imagine the pillow talk. Think of the exchange of ideas. Unfortunately, after the initial energy of the The Rite Of Spring premiere dies down, Jan Kounen's throbbingly soundtracked film drags from sex scene to sex scene. Coco and Igor's relationship exists practically dialogue-free, and we're offered little to no insight into their subversive, some would say revolutionary, minds.
Shots of the artists' faces half shrouded in shadow throughout the film lay on a bit too heavily the notion of the tortured genius. Coco's clearly as attracted to the music as she is to the man — perhaps even more so. Why else would Chanel, a poster child for independent women, allow him to dispute that her designs are art and call her a "shopkeeper." Chanel seemingly bowed to no one, but here she barely flinches at his jabs.
Mouglalis is alluringly sharp as Coco, in both her angular physical appearance and biting honesty. By contrast, Mikkelsen is a thick block of a man. He'd be an imposing presence next to Mouglalis' long, lean figure were it not for the fierce confidence she instills in Coco.
The supporting cast proves much more affecting than the two stars, despite the thrusting and grunting of their clandestine lovemaking. Morozova, especially, as Igor's wife Katarina, offers a reserved yet stirring portrait of a wronged woman. After bearing a gaggle of little Stravinskys and serving for years as the composer's creative sounding board and editor, she's emotionlessly dismissed and sent off in a carriage with the brood.
A choppy mix of shots of empty swings, and Coco and Igor as feeble, graying figures long since separated comprises the film's final moments. The montage is as scattershot as the narrative, and feels similarly forced, which is disappointing considering the raw material author/screenwriter Chris Greenhalgh had to work with. As an audience, we're looking for something meaningful, but all we get is the equivalent of a one-night stand.