Movie Review: ‘Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky’ Is a Visual Stunner Full of Fashion Porn

My friend and I both had the exact same response after leaving an afternoon screening of Chanel Coco & Igor Stravinsky last night at New York’s Angelika theater: “Holy fuck, the clothes.”

And, honestly, what should any other response to a movie about Coco Chanel be? The film (whose title convinced me I was dyslexic), which was released in France last year, has finally washed up on US shores. Based on the novel Coco and Igor, which alleges that the two legends conducted a brief affair while Stravinsky’s family was staying at Chanel’s home, the film is absolutely gorgeous to look at. Chanel’s house and wardrobe are almost entirely monochromatic, leading Stravinsky’s wife to ask, “Don’t you like color?” The designer responds, “Of course, as long as it’s black.”

Everything in the movie – from the black shutters on the house to the white bouquet of flowers – is chosen with the utmost care and delicacy. Anna Mouglalis is the best Chanel I’ve ever seen onscreen – her gamine features and slender figure make her a perfect vehicle for the clothes, which include everything from a black evening gown to a white almost translucent nightdress. The plot – which, to be honest, I almost didn’t care about – revolves mostly around Chanel and Stravinsky as each attempts something revolutionary. Stravinsky is composing his ballet The Rite of Spring, and Chanel is hard at work creating what will come to be known as Chanel No. 5.

Everything in this movie – from the composing scenes to the sex scenes – is meticulously constructed, but in a way that largely feels natural. It’s very hard to have an entire film that’s so tightly controlled and yet not feel false, but it does help that it seems completely normal for someone like Coco Chanel to have such a perfect, beautiful, artistic life. While all the characters whose names aren’t in the title don’t get much in the way of character development (with the exception of Elena Morozova as Katia Stravinsky, who manages to wring much out of little and gets a pro-Coco audience to empathize with her), the visual appeal of the film is almost enough to overshadow everything else. It’s a banquet for aesthetes, with music, fashion, art, and sex all whirled together.  It’s also a fascinating character study of Coco herself, a woman who remained a ‘Mademoiselle’ until death. Even those closest to Coco still have trouble grasping her modernity, the fact that she goes after men, enjoys sex, and runs her business in singleminded fashion. Toward the beginning of the film, when Chanel invites Stravinsky to stay at her home, she talks about why she loves Paris. “The twentieth century is here,” she says – and it’s clear that Coco is one of the people who will define the century through attitude, style, and, holy fuck, the clothes.

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