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coco before chanel, biographical film, biography, review, biopic

Coco Before Chanel (2009) 

Coco Chanel changed the world of fashion by liberating women from the constraints of corsets and superfluous adornments and providing them with a more comfortable, simpler style. This biopic successfully recreates the environment ‘before Chanel’, allowing us to witness Coco’s creativity as she finds inspiration in riding wear, sailor tops and a little black dress. Regrettably, the freedom associated with this attire is not reflected in the lead role. Whereas Chanel’s fashion maintained a degree of elegance in its minimalisation, Audrey Tautou’s performance is pared back to the point of austerity.

Fifteen years after being abandoned at an orphanage, sisters Gabrielle and Adrienne Chanel find themselves performing as a double act singing about a lost dog named Coco. When Adrienne leaves to pursue a fruitless relationship with a baron, Gabrielle foists herself upon an admirer. Though this socialite prefers to keep his relationship with Coco hidden, she nevertheless manages to acquaint herself with his circle of friends. Among them is an actress whom Coco designs hats and dresses for, and an English aristocrat who sees something unique in her designs.

This biopic, by design, is limited to Chanel’s life before she found fame, and as such leaves itself with a shortage of material from which to fashion a film. Moreover, it fails to enliven what little story there is, presenting each phase of her journey without nuance. While Coco makes a point of not being a prostitute while performing in salons, she has no trouble being Balsan’s kept woman if it means improving her status. This lack of awareness results in the love triangle being devoid of passion with each participant seemingly treating the other as a mere plaything. Notwithstanding this, Benoît Poelvoorde’s portrayal of Balsan is one of the film’s few bright spots.

One month after this film’s release, the equally sombre Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky debuted at the Cannes Film Festival.

Audrey Tautou, Coco Chanel, Gabrielle Chanel
fact check, factcheck, fact vs fiction, inaccuracies, true story

Biopic depicts Boy Capel’s marriage occurring before Coco Chanel opened her first shop in Paris when in actuality Chanel’s shop opened five years before he was wed.

Biopic precedes Chanel's work in film.

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