Film >Eau de ew
From the plainly exclusive title to the lushly designed, lifeless frames, Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky is everything that turns people off of “art-house films.” Not to play fly-over’s advocate, but this is why you always see portrayals of those stereotypically nitwitted movie executives asking, “Will it play in Kansas?” Because for all but the most aesthetic-minded, staid and passionless moviegoers, this is what people fear about prestige pics: cold romance, expensive clothes and wistful glances.
The tale begins with an excruciatingly lengthy scene of Russian composer Igor Stravinsky’s tanking debut of his ballet, “The Rite of Spring.” (God help me, it’s the second time I’ve sat through the dance – one I’ve always abhorred – in the last month, after Mao’s Last Dancer.) Stravinsky (Mads Mikkelsen) is nearly run out of the theater on a rail, and watching it all is designer Coco Chanel (Anna Mouglalis) already at the top of her game.
Stravinsky is in ruins following the performance, so Chanel invites him and his wife and kids to her estate to live for the time being under the (possibly true) pretense that she wants his mind clear so he can work. At this point, everyone in the audience and the estate knows what’s coming, and so it does: an affair for the ages, right? Not so fast. There are hesitancies to ponder quietly, emotionless sexual dalliances to watch with a stiff (so to speak) upper lip, confrontations to be barely uttered and, of course, disapproving sullenness to endure from Stravinsky’s wife (Yelena Morozova, who deserves better than to be thrown in as a dying nuisance). In the meantime, Chanel dips her toes in the fragrance pond. No. 3? Nah. No. 4? Nah. No. 5? Perfect! Yawn.
Co-screenwriter and director Jan Kounen fails to invest us in these strong personality types, filming their inwardness as an excuse for them to say as little as humanly possible and to reveal nothing within their expressions. His sets are too big, the actors too small and the story marginalized in favor of Masterpiece Theater dinner scenes.
There is a great tale to tell with regards to Chanel, a whip-smart mogul with great loves and losses. But neither this, nor last year’s Coco Before Chanel, nor the Lifetime TV movie the year before have what it takes to come up to her level. Maybe on the fifth try?