Above: Le sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring): Part I (The Adoration of the Earth) – by Igor Stravinsky
There’s a moment in Director Jan Lounen’s film Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky, after a passionate sex scene (one of many), where the Russian composer tells Chanel, played by Anna Mouglalis, that she is not an artist. She could have had any man she wanted but she could not deny that which inspired her, even if he was married.
This moment ends an intense yet short affair between the innovative designer and the Russian composer but not before the two reached amazing high points in their respective careers.
After dedicating herself to her work, Chanel slowly began to evolve into a piece of art herself. This is something Lounen’s translates beautifully through the visuals in his film. Most of the film takes place in Coco’s garden villa, where she invited the exiled Stravinsky (Mads Mikkelsen) and his family to stay while he worked. The decor of the villa is lavish and speaks to the indulgence of the intense affair. The whimsical garden, large enough for a horse ride and a swing between the trees, speaks to the romantic tones of the film down to the moans coming from the secret love shack in the woods.
In another scene, while in her room and after parting with Stravinsky, Chanel catches a glimpse of herself working in the mirror and pulls the drape to cover it. As unapologetic and not guilty as Coco felt about her affair with a married man, we see that it really is lonely at the top. She’s surrounded by extravagance and elegance but her loneliness is almost painful for her to witness. Her strict and detailed ways allowed her reach a level of success that is unmatched by any other fashion designer. Stravinsky’s revolutionary use of dissonance propelled him into music history books. After Boy Capel’s death, all the grief-stricken Coco wanted was to be fascinated and intrigued by a man again. She was a woman who yearned, lusted and loved.
The film paints Coco as a woman of high standards, admired by other woman for her confidence but plagued by others thinking that her gambling with love meant she did not take it seriously.
Chanel was first captivated by Igor’s intensity and his brilliant mind during the legendary premiere of “The Rites of Spring” on May 29th, 1913.
While the French audience, used to ballets like Swan Lake, was outraged over the pairing of Stravinsky’s adventurous composition and Vaslav Nijinsky‘s almost savage choreography, Chanel was excited and drawn to the radical departure. This all makes for one of the most heart-pounding moments in a non-action film I’ve ever experienced. (See a Cannes Excerpt from Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky on Youtube)
From the beginning, the film is whimsical and romantic and at times makes you feel like you’re in a surreal world of savage love and emotions. The intense story follows both Chanel and Stravinsky’s greatest achievements (Ballet Russes, Chanel No. 5) but also captures the pain and “decay” of Catherine Stravinsky—played by a striking Yelena Morozova—as she if forced to watch it all unfold before her and her children’s eyes.
The stunning costumes and score are enough to realize that this isn’t just another Chanel film. Uncle Karl even designed a gown for the film but every gown and outfit in this feature is just as stunning as the next. From Chanel to the male actors fitted in the most appropriate suits, expect to find your mouth slightly opened in awe of the sex, fashion and music Coco & Igor provides.
Review by Lexx Valdez