Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky (Sony Pictures Classics, R)

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The theater patrons create enough of a disturbance to involve the Parisian police.

Most musicians find artistic inspiration through love. It isn’t that surprising since the longed-for emotion has climactic swells and tempo changes just like music. Eighties rocker Pat Benatar described it as a battlefield. Current pop star Kesha compares it to a drug. In Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky, director Jan Kounen shows how the passion of love impacted two revolutionary artists in the 1920s. With a soundtrack surrounding Stravinsky’s popular neoclassicism, Kounen’s film is the perfect example of music as a storytelling device. For Chanel (Anna Mouglalis) and Stravinsky (Mads Mikkelsen), this tool is just as hypnotic as their steamy passion for one another.
The sparks between Chanel and Stravinsky ignite in 1913 Paris at the Theatre Des Champs-Elysées. Stravinsky nervously opens his ballet The Rite of Spring as Chanel watches with enthused eyes. The rest of the audience either loves his new modern form or screams in disgust. The theater patrons create enough of a disturbance to involve the Parisian police. Unfortunately, the reviews are mixed for his revolutionary composition. Seven years later, when Chanel is reaching her fashionista peak, the artists cross paths again. At this point in his career, Stravinsky is a refugee of the Russian Revolution and can barely support his children and ailing wife (Yelena Morozova). Chanel takes advantage of his desperation by offering him her villa in Garches and the funds to write a new piece. Their creative energy instantly ricochets off each another. They begin a love affair that intimately fuels their artistic influence on the world.
Stravinsky’s famous emphasis on the offbeat is constrictive yet liberating. As they form their relationship, Chanel and Stravinsky are confronted with the same contradicting struggle. Like her monotonous voice and impersonal manners, Chanel’s home décor and clothes were all black and white until Stravinsky moved in. He also faced a prison in his stagnant career until she saved him. Even if she started to wear colorful prints and he hit a composing streak, they weren’t able to live happily ever after. They had other priorities and people who depended on them. In reality, Stravinsky’s offbeat rhythm mixes a similar fresh tempo with a painful jerk of raw emotion.
The soundtrack is as effective as the other trippy affects within the film. It is a perfect example of music driving the pace of a narrative. Chanel’s influential art deco designs and odd lifestyle are just a backdrop for the musician’s impact. Music is more meaningful when love is involved. And Chanel and Stravinsky’s love is more meaningful when music is involved. | Alice Telios



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