Thursday, May 19, 2011

Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky

Did you know that the fashion icon Coco Chanel and composer Igor Stravinsky were lovers?  Neither did I.  Both of them left a huge legacy, her with her perfume and (I guess) her dresses, him with his music.  As pioneers in their fields, they cross paths and inspire one another at a crucial point in both of their careers.

The best part of this movie is the opening sequence, depicting the first performance of Le Sacre du Printemps, or The Rite of Spring.  They didn't portray the entire, typically about 30-35 minute, performance, but I was surprised at how long it was in the movie.  I should have noted the time, but I bet it was 15 minutes or more.  As I noted in my review of the FWSO's performance, this premiere caused a near riot, and the movie's depiction seems to be very close to historical accounts.  The negative reaction does seem to be as much from the ballet, if not more, than the music itself.

This video isn't from the movie, but both this production and the production in the movie purport to reproduce the original 1913 choreography and costuming.
After that performance, Chanel learns of Stravinsky's living conditions.  As a refugee from Russia, he has little money, and lives in a cramped apartment with his ailing wife and four kids.  She invites the whole family to live with her at her villa.  Shortly, the two of them start an affair right under his wife's nose.  During this time period, Chanel develops her famous fragrance and presumably Stravinsky works on his compositions.

Although I enjoyed the depiction of the Rite of Spring premiere, the rest of the movie did little for me.  It's well made, great picture of 1920s Paris, well acted, etc.  But the eponymous characters came across as couple of artsy elites who think social mores are below them and that the consequences of their choices on their families don't matter. 

Bottom line, 2 stars.

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