Coco Avant Chanel (Coco Before Chanel) has been in the theatres for a short time, and I took advantage of a rainy weekend to go see this movie by Anne Fontaine at the Plano Angelika. Audrey Tautou starred as Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel from her teen years until right after her Paris shop became well known, but before World War I. Not really knowing too much about Chanel, I enjoyed the movie but just have to say that Coco was a very, very lucky girl in the early 1900’s. Of course she had talent and perseverance, but she was fortunate to have met two very rich friends, Étienne Balsan and “Boy” Capel. Balsan was a wealthy man she met when she worked for a tailor by day, and in the movie she sang at cabarets in the evenings. They became friends and lovers and she eventually went to live with him. Later she met the Englishman Capel when he came to visit Balsan. The actors that portrayed Balsan and Capel were very well cast.
Balsan supported Chanel by giving her a place to live and work (designing hats). Boy Capel financed her first shop. Unfortunately, Capel was killed in a car wreck before he and Chanel were supposed to rendezvous one year on the Riviera. After his death, a devastated Chanel concentrated on her work and became more and more successful.
Audrey Tautou was perfect for the role of Chanel. She is thin, beautiful, and can convey much emotion just with her facial expressions. She was so perfect for her role in Amélie, and I enjoyed seeing her in this movie, another French-made film. In The Da Vinci Code, her sparkling personality was never allowed to develop in the role of Sophie Neveu.
I really enjoyed the clothes Chanel made from the men’s clothes in the movie, and it was interesting to see how she was inspired. She hated corsets and all the feathery, unnecessary accoutrements of women’s fashion in the early 1900’s. Instead, she liked simpler, more comfortable clothes. Traveling to the sea and seeing the sailors gave her inspiration to use and wear different materials.
The ending to this movie was a bit strange as an older Chanel in one of her signature suits is sitting on the steps of her apartment/shop in Paris after many models walk down the stairs in her famous designs. The movie did not really concentrate on her dresses and couture clothes, as much as her beginnings designing hats and casual clothes. This last scene did not really blend in with the movie, but it showed how creative and talented she was and how famous she became.