In Poland the title of „Coco avant Chanel” was changed to simply „Coco Chanel”. In my opinion this was a mistake because some people went to see the movie that would show Chanel - a successful designer known for her horribly expensive bags, simple black dresses and menly clothes. Truth is this movie is not about that designer. It simply is about Gabrielle. A poor, little girl from a small village in France, who was raised without her parents, with her one sister in the orphanage. Every Sunday she would dream so that her father would come, visit and take her home.
Chanel was ashamed of her past. In the conversations she would change the facts of her childhood to seem more interesting. She was very outspoken, never afraid to say what she really thought. One day during her work at a local bar, where she was singing with her sister, she met Étienne Balsan (played by Benoît Poelvoord), a rich businessman, with whom she had an affair and used his connections to slowly go higher on a social ladder. He was also the one who created her nickname Coco based on a song she used to sing. It was back then that she started dressing more „man like”. She stopped wearing a corset, redesigned Balsan’s closet and created a whole new style.
Coco avant Chanel is also a wonderful love movie. According to biographers Chanel was in love only once in her life. It was with Boy Capel (Fantastic Alessando Nivola), an English Businessman, with whom she had an affair for many years until his tragic car accident. Capel was the one, who gave money to Coco to open her first store on Rue Cambon in Paris, where until this day fashionistas from all over the world travel to buy at least the smallest piece with double CC logo.
Coco with Balsan on left and Capel on right
One of the most beautiful parts of the movie are when the camera almost accidentally shows us all the elements of clothes, materials, people that were part of Chanel’s life and made a great impact on her future designs. For example there are nuns, who were Gabrielle’s guardians at the orphanage or fishermen wearing stripe shirts. All of those elements surrounding Chanel’s life would be used by her to create some of the greatest clothes and designs of all time.
Audrey Tautou is a great actress. We might still look at her as Amelie but in my opinion soon people might see her more like Coco Chanel. She did an amazing job imitating Chanel’s poses. The way she smokes a cigarette while working on her designs. In „Coco avant Chanel” we see a woman who struggles through life to achieve something great. And this by itself is an inspiration and worth watching.
„Coco avant Chanel” opens this weekend in limited theaters around Europe.