Coco avant Chanel

Coco before Chanel

Coco avant Chanel brings fashion's famous Mademoiselle to life, thanks to... Audrey Tautou, who is alternately charming, cheeky, stubborn and determined.” — Suzy Menkes, NY Times
Director: Anne Fontaine
Year: 2008
Country: France
Running time: 105 mins

Producers: Caroline Benjo, Carole Scotta, Philippe Carcassonne, Simon Arnal
Screenplay: Anne Fontaine, Camille Fontaine, Christopher Hampton, Jacques Fieschi. Based on the book L'Irrégulière, ou mon itinéraire Chanel by Edmonde Charles-Roux
Photography: Christophe Beaucarne
Editor: Luc Barnier
Music: Alexandre Desplat
In French with English subtitles
CinemaScope/PG coarse language

With: Audrey Tautou (Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel), Benoît Poelvoorde (Étienne Balsan), Alessandro Nivola (Arthur ‘Boy’ Capel), Marie Gillain (Adrienne Chanel), Emmanuelle Devos (Emilienne d'Alençon)

Audrey Tautou puts Amélie far behind her with a stunning interpretation of the headstrong, self-sufficient designer who, in pre-First World War France, was one of the first women to assert herself in a man's world.

“Born poor in 1883 in rural France, Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel overcame her lack of breeding via a keen eye, forthright manner and revolutionary approach to women's tailoring that, incredibly, transformed a gruff peasant girl into the embodiment of chic. The iconic innovator lived to be 87 but Fontaine wisely concentrates on the stretch of time specified in the title, as Chanel scrambles to get by, absorbs visual inspiration from her surroundings... and unabashedly uses men to get closer to Paris...
The screenwriters have taken liberties with chronology that may upset fashion purists but the broad outline of alliances, influences, lucky breaks and tragedy rings true... Bearing a striking resemblance to the real woman, Tautou communicates Chanel's emancipated, fearless approach to life and her steely resolve..., while letting subtle layers of hurt, humiliation and grief show through her pride.” — Lisa Nesselson, Screendaily

“Spectacle, a love triangle, heritage settings, bravura acting, witty dialogue, a bittersweet finale: there's something for everyone in Anne Fontaine's Coco avant Chanel... There also is – not the least of the movie's pleasures – the sense of a keen intelligence marshaling and shaping the material, shunning cliché and sentimentality and creating meaning out of what for once is not the standard biopic procedure of ticking off the boxes in a celebrity CV.” — Bernard Besserglik, Hollywood Reporter

Read The Lumiere Reader's recent review of Coco avant Chanel here.