If the aim of this film was to show the flames of untamed passion that led to the alleged affair between Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky, then it is, without a doubt, a failure. But it is an artful, elegant failure, with a strong opening scene that sadly, proves to be the zenith of excitement in this dry exploration of frisson between two of the 20th Century’s most talented artists.
The film picks up seamlessly where Coco Before Chanel ended, in a blazing riot of anger and support for Russian composer Stravinsky (Mads Mikklesen, a former Bond villain) at the premiere of his daring and controversial show ‘The Rites of Spring’, which mesmerises a recently bereaved Chanel. Seven years later, she invites the penniless but brilliant composer into her home, along with his wife and children, embarking on an affair which complements his renewed vigour for composition and her new venture, the iconic Chanel No.5 perfume.
The devastatingly beautiful Anna Mouglalis embodies the part of the chic, fashion maverick in looks, creating a far colder Chanel than Audrey Tatou, devastated as she now was by the death of her lover Boy Capel. In this she is triumphant – as is Mikkelsen, for his troubled, strained genius Stravinsky, (whose potently emotional music is displayed magnificently here and alone, worth a viewing). They are wonderful, watchable actors, but the electricity needed to make this coupling believable is palpably lacking, leaving a dry, brittle affair, the voyeurism of which a passion-seeking audience will soon tire. And what is a film which hinges on a single relationship without passion? More interesting, and certainly more electric, is the morality driven dynamic between Chanel and Stravinsky’s bedridden wife (Elena Morozova), who plays on her compassion to reclaim her man.
Dutch filmmaker Jan Kounen, who directed the mesmerising and offbeat comic adaptation Blueberry, could have been a good fit for a film in which the action is almost solely emotional. But he’s brought little of the eclectic flair that made Blueberry, or the charismatic 1997 thriller Doberman so watchable, opting instead for a stuffy, arthouse approach that focuses on beautiful sets, exquisite clothes – and not much else.
If the aftertaste desired is one of artistic expression taking the place of human emotion, then job well done. But I highly doubt I’d have cared as little for either genius in the flesh as I did for their representation here.