Gabrielle Chanel wasn’t just a seamstress who made pretty clothes. She deserves respect for being a canny and ambitious businesswoman who freed generations from corsets, crinolines and big patisserie hats. By doing so, she also helped bring forth the kind of feminist thinking that was ahead of her time.
Coco Avant Chanel covers the beginning of her amazing life from her poor childhood, dumped at an orphanage, to couturier and fashion celebrity Coco Chanel. The film is a beautiful set piece for the deep dark eyes and poised elegance of Audrey Tatou, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Chanel and who manages to bring some depth to a thinly written character.
The pace of the film is also a bit unbalanced. We spend an inordinate amount of time with her when she is the lover/protegee of the rich, middle-aged Etienne Balsan, only spend a little bit of time on her ill-fated romance with the English aristocrat Arthur Capel, who funded her first stores, influenced on her style and who’s death was probably the most devastating event in Chanel’s life, and when she leaves Balsan’s chateau for Paris, it’s like all of a sudden she’s a success! The film has also been criticised for glossing over the more unsavoury aspects of Chanel’s life in her later years, but her life was so full of drama that one film could only ever cover a segment of her life.
Coco Avant Chanel isn’t terrible or fantastic, and it’s a nice girly day out (lots of beautiful clothes to admire), especially in the Art Deco surroundings of the Sun Theatre. The wide leather seats (some double love-seats) were incredibly comfortable and reminded me of the plush surroundings of the Electric Cinema.