Coco Before Chanel DVD
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Directed by Anne Fontaine
Produced in 2009
Main Language - French with English subtitles
Emma Paterson appreciates this lavish and gloriously feminine biopic about the early life of iconic fashion designer Coco Chanel. Tautou excels in the lead role.
For all its advocacy of sartorial androgyny and sexual independence, Coco Before Chanel is a gloriously feminine film, full of rich tactile pleasures; sweeping vistas and soft amorous embraces.
Propelled by a charismatic Audrey Tautou in the title role, the narrative spans the earlier half of Coco’s life, opening with her lonely childhood, comprising two love affairs, and culminating with a fashion show on the staircase of her famed Rue Cambon salon. As we leave her, she stands, powdered and poised, at the peak of designer greatness, a position which aptly inverts earlier images of a younger, fragile Coco gazing out into vast landscapes of possibility.
Writer-director Anne Fontaine spares us the grand arcs of an overwrought biopic, offering instead the quiet successes and failures of everyday life as experienced by an impoverished but brilliant young woman at the dawn of the twentieth century.
Vowing never to marry and insistent upon her right to work, Tautou’s defiant, acid-tongued Coco is a sprightly emblem of a key turning point in the history of women’s rights, her fiercely modernist principles prefiguring the political upheaval that would eventually coincide with the birth of her towering career.
But co-existent with these progressive impulses is a traditional investment, albeit an ambivalent one, in the virtues of love, passion and romantic commitment. Indeed the narrative centrepiece of Fontaine’s film is not Coco’s ardour for haute couture, an affinity she develops more through chance than effort, but the personal awakening incited by her affair with Arthur (‘Boy’) Capel. Boy, a charming Englishman who shares her preference for minimalist elegance, quickly becomes both the love of her life and the source of her professional confidence. Their convincing attraction lies at the heart of the narrative, affording Coco Before Chanel the luscious contours of a sensuously rendered love story, in which the spectator’s hopes for romantic union are satisfied and denied in equal measure.
A lavish biopic recounting the life and work of legendary French fashion designer Coco Chanel, from her humble beginnings in an Auvergne orphanage in the late 1800s after being abandoned by her peddler father. Audrey Tatou stars in the title role as Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel, whose inspiration and determination eventually took her to the most elevated position in the male-dominated fashion industry.
Publisher: Optimum Releasing
Length: 110 mins
Cat No: OPTD1663
Format: DVD Colour
- Coco Before Chanel: The Meeting: interviews with Anne Fontaine and Audrey Tatou
- Commentary from Anne Fontaine.