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Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky, biographical film, biography, review, biopic

Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky (2009) 

“Film music?” Igor Stravinsky once asked dismissively. “That’s monkey business, and for monkey business my price is too high.” Nevertheless, it didn’t prevent the composer from occasionally trying his hand at it. Among the movies he wrote music for were Jane Eyre, The Song of Bernadette and The North Star but when negotiations fell through, he recycled the completed music into another work. The one movie he did contribute music to was The Balcony, in which Stravinsky himself adapted parts of his ‘The Soldier’s Tale’ for the film’s score. This lack of cinematic output has been attributed to the composer’s dismay over Disney’s use of ‘The Rite of Spring’ in Fantasia, yet that film remains the most widely known example of his work.

Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky opens with an extraordinary recreation of the premier of ‘The Rite of Spring’ in 1913, after which it basically picks up where Coco Before Chanel left off. A newsreel montage of the Russian revolution delivers Stravinsky to 1920’s Paris where Chanel has recently established her fashion house. After becoming aware of the composer’s financial difficulties, Chanel invites Stravinsky and his family to stay with her at her villa. At first blush it appears that Chanel is ‘paying it forward’, providing Stravinsky with the financial and material support that she herself received in the earlier biopic. However, while Chanel accepted this help with her eyes wide open, Stravinsky’s eyes don’t pop until the fashion designer disrobes.

That discarded garment, like many others, were supplied by the fashion house that Chanel established. Further support was provided to the filmmakers by granting them access to the designer’s archives and residences, which may have indirectly led to the film taking on the look of a Chanel commercial. Dialogue is sparse and there are endless shots of characters silently wandering through autumnal woods as the camera slowly swirls around them. While such cooperation this could have led to his film being a hagiopic of the company’s founder, commendably this is not the case.


As portrayed in this film, Coco is best described by Stravinsky’s wife as someone who collects people and feels no guilt. Her cold-heartedness coupled with Stravinsky’s lack of remorse make for a passionless affair. Regrettably, this is amplified by performances as colourless as Chanel’s décor.

Anna Mouglalis, Coco Chanel, Mads Mikkelsen, Igor Stravinsky
fact check, factcheck, fact vs fiction, inaccuracies, true story

Despite commentary to the contrary, it seems certain that Chanel and Stravinsky did have an affair. What is in dispute is the impact it had on each party.

Misia came back to me, stirring up the drama: “Stravinsky is in the room next door. He wants to know whether or not you will marry him. He is wringing his hands" ...This affair, which I laugh about today, changed Igor’s life entirely. It transformed him. From being shy and self-effacing, it made him, contrary to what would normally have happened, into a hard man with a monocle; from a victim into a conqueror.

The Allure of Chanel, Paul Morand

In September 1920, Stravinsky and his family, still in Brittany, were rescued by Gabrielle Chanel, who placed at his disposal her home in the Paris suburb of Garches. But since Chanel soon became his mistress, the presence of a wife and children was awkward…The Chanel affair was first publicized by the late Paul Morand, who seems not to have perceived the bragging in her late-in-life memory of it... no one who knew Stravinksy will believe that he ever considered divorcing in order to marry Chanel.

Stravinsky in pictures and documents, Vera Stravinsky and Robert Craft


“Aside from the [known] facts, there is little information about their relationship, no letters or correspondence survive between them, where they went, what they did, so I was able to take the essential facts and imagine and invent the rest.”

Chris Greenhalgh (screenwriter)

Biopic precedes Chanel's work in film.

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