Opening with a masterful, 20-plus-minute re-creation of the infamous 1913 Parisian premiere of the ballet The Rite of Spring and shot through with a gorgeous mise-en-scène that makes the film as much about place as people, Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky is the art-house companion piece to last year’s more-traditional biopic Coco Before Chanel.
The bulk of the film takes place in 1920: after the Russian Revolution has forced Igor Stravinsky (Mads Mikkelsen), his consumptive wife Katarina (Yelena Morozova), and their children into exile; after Boy Capel, the love of a lifetime for Coco (Anna Mouglalis), has died; and before Coco creates Chanel No. 5 — “a fragrance worthy of a woman.”
Coco gives the Stravinskys a place to stay and Igor a place to work at her country home. The house becomes a main character in the film, too — director Jan Kounen explores its striking black-and-white interior with a camera that tracks and swirls and defies gravity.
In Coco Before Chanel, Audrey Tautou gave the fashion icon a fresh-faced luminance that seemed to put the 20th century on notice. Mouglalis’ Coco is necessarily older, and she brings to the role sex and command, lithely knifing through the film like a shark fin.
Mikkelsen keeps Stravinsky’s passion in reserve, but when the composer is at work, in the throes of inspiration, you can hear all of the roiling emotions battling for high ground.
Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky is in French and Russian with subtitles. It’s full of Stravinsky compositions that probably will further illuminate the proceedings for the musically informed viewer. For the ignorant, such as myself, it nevertheless left a rich aftertaste.
Opens Friday, July 30th at Ridgeway Four.